Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Social Welfare


Stephen Burghardt

Committee Members

Darrell Wheeler

Elizabeth Danto

Subject Categories

Social Welfare


The often times high risk environment of African American youth negatively impacts their psychological well being, their family relations and community connections. Many African American youth today are experiencing the vestiges of historical trauma that took root in America in the 17th Century when the first Africans came to America. As a result of generational transmission of historical trauma, many youths today are disproportionately underachieving in education, disproportionately poor, disproportionately monitored by police and incarcerated and disproportionately disrespected by the society at large. In order to reduce the disparity of contemporary problems effecting African American youth, social scientists need to discover a wider array of protective factors to promote resilience in the face of overwhelming exposure to historical trauma and its attendant environmental risks and deleterious consequences.

The researcher uses historical lenses and methodology to explore protective factors used by 100 former African American slaves to increase our understanding of ways to strengthen resiliency for the adolescent progeny of the African American slave today. The stories of over two thousand emancipated slaves are archived in the Library of Congress in the collection of written interviews known as the Federal Writers Project Slave Narratives. According to Thomas Soapes (1977), two thirds of those interviewed were age fifteen or younger at the time emancipation; almost all of the remainder were in their late teens or twenties in 1865.

The data analysis process yielded the discovery of sixteen (16) protective factors related to the survival story of the slave. The researcher discusses the findings of historical protective factors in the context of historical trauma and other residuals of chattel slavery evident in contemporary society. The researcher introduces an analysis of internal and external connections for resilience as well as puts forwards an analysis of limitations of the study. The last chapter provides a theoretical application of the findings of historical protective factors to contemporary social work practice with African American youth, families and the community. Additionally, the last chapter offers implications for culturally competent social work practice with at-risk African American youth and suggestions for future research.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.