Author enhances knowledge on post-traumatic slave syndrome

By Diamond Jones, Daily Egyptian

While many students have learned about slavery in the context of the 19th century, a respected historian visited campus to talk about its effects on contemporary black people. 

The second week of the university’s celebration of Women’s History Month kicked off with a seminar by international author, researcher and educator Joy DeGruy, who enlightened SIU students about post-traumatic slave syndrome. 

“We haven’t unlearned from the past and we can’t fix what we don’t understand,” DeGruy said Monday when asked why young people have never heard of PTSS. She said it was coined to explain the trauma black people face because of past circumstances of African-Americans.


DeGruy, who holds a master’s degree in social work and another in clinical psychology, studies adaptation and behaviors of black communities and people. Her research stems from past events that affect black people today, some of which refer to violence caused by anger and racist socialization.

She said she believes the guilt felt by white people prevents telling stories of the African-American past.

“[Black people] have a hard time admitting [white] people who act out of racist behavior know what they’re doing because it’s on purpose, and it’s always been that way,” said the Rev. Joseph Brown, a professor in the department of Africana studies. “The law and the constitution wasn’t written for or on our behalf, and despite that and everything the black culture has experienced, we have to come up with a solution as to how we can accept it’s not our fault.”

DeGruy and Brown said black history should be taught as American history — not as something separate. Brown said students “haven’t been given the correct diagnosis for their unanswered questions and the lack of black history being taught generally.”

Members of SIU’s NAACP Registered Student Organization, along with other students, were also in attendance for the three-hour seminar and expressed their thoughts and reactions to DeGruy’s lecture.

Ciara Maxwell, president of SIU’s NAACP chapter, said she notices differences in stereotypes of black and white women in everything from appearance to motherhood.

“My anger roots from what I’m not being taught when I know that it should be taught,” said Maxwell, a senior from Memphis, Tenn., studying exercise science. 


The seminar came to an end as DeGruy spoke about the effects of the water crisis in Flint, Mich., Hurricane Katrina and other social issues she wrote about in her book, “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome.”

“No one should lack a sense of worth or respect or carry low self-esteem,” she said. “Every person in this room is the undefeated. So don’t sit in a room and pretend to not be.”

Diamond Jones can be reached at [email protected] or 618-536-3325.