Abstract: Resilience and Trauma Among African Americans (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Resilience and Trauma Among African Americans

Friday, January 17, 2020
Congress, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Lennon Jackson, MSW, PhD Student, Howard University, Washington, DC

Historical trauma (the trauma of slavery) continues to result in unfavorable outcomes for some African American families.  “Resilience” is the miracle potion that has worked to support many African American families to move beyond the racism that continues to define many aspects of their lives. 


This symposium addresses resilience in the African American community through a systematic review of literature.  The review plan included articles published in the social work literature between 2000-2019 (two decades).  The articles that were reviewed were identified by a database search based upon two terms: African Americans and Resilience.  The articles that emerged used both qualitative and quantitative research methods.  The review question was “what recommendations were made for practice (micro and macro levels) based upon the research?”  The author conducted an evaluative annotated bibliography on articles that focused specifically on African American Youth and education.  


Articles on African Americans and Resilience largely focused on trauma and its effects on of quality of life. Ranging from gun violence to interpersonal violence, the articles addressed how resilience supported individuals in moving beyond their situations.  Micro level interventions were discussed to address the grief and loss as well as the fear of moving forward.  The articles emphasized the importance of finding meaning and cultural experiences such as spirituality. Resilience within the context of trauma seems to relate to negating powerlessness. While violence was the source of the trauma, more attention was given to supporting the individual through tapping into their resilience.  A focus on macro strategies to prevent violence through ending disparate treatment of communities did not seem to be a major focus in the articles reviewed.


Resilience figured prominently in helping African Americans address trauma.  This was important given the seeming epidemic of violence against Blacks.  The practice implications are that resilient individuals can have an influence on creating resilient communities.  However, structural changes are needed as well to ensure that trauma at the macro level is given higher priority.