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Healing History


“There is no cure for history.  It happened.  It is happening.”  Those first words of the Healing History self-study and discussion guide (Woll, 2021) point to some essential challenges for the behavioral health field.

If we want to respond effectively to the depth and breadth of the behavioral health challenges that African American communities face, we will need an understanding of our nation’s past and some of the ways it has led to our present—and how it is propelling us toward our future.

This Web Page

The core of the Healing History web page is a discussion of what the history of African Americans means for the present, for the future, and for the decisions we make each day.  This discussion is presented in 10 chapters, to be published in 5 “waves,” starting at the end of Black History Month and continuing through 2022.

  1. Africa Before the Plunder
  2. The Birth of Slavery, Race, and Racism
  3. The Fate of the African Diaspora
  4. The Brutality of History
  5. The Struggle
  6. The Strength
  7. Policies, Systems, and Institutions
  8. Health Care for Black Lives
  9. The Wounds We Carry
  10. The Choices We Make

Descriptions of and links to these chapters are provided below, under “Published Chapters” and “More Chapters Coming Soon"


Healing History: Where History Meets Behavioral Health Equity For African Americans

Click here to download the Self-Study and Discussion Guide

Online Museum of African American Addictions, Treatment, and Recovery

Click here to explore the powerful online musuem developed by Mark Sanders, LCSW, CADC



The chapter information provided below is also a series of links. When you click on each photo, chapter title, or description, it will take you to a chapter page where you can find:

  • An essay introducing some of the forces at work and the dynamics you might find in this facet of American history
  • Questions about what this means to you, as an individual, a professional, and/or a member of a community and a society
  • Links to good references for this topic and to auxiliary documents that highlight important ideas, events, or authors
  • Links to songs, poetry, artwork, videos, podcasts, and websites with more resources


Published Chapters, Available Now!


Photo courtesy Thomas Bennie  

1. Africa Before the Plunder


The history of Africa did not start with kidnapping and slavery. There were civilizations, governments, communities, families, cultures, customs, religions, learning, and creativity. There were also people who fought and died trying to save their loved ones from capture.

Slave trade in Africa and the West Indies. Photo courtesy British Online Archives  

2. The Birth of Slavery, Race, and Racism

It was a world where slavery and racism not only took hold, but also wielded incredible financial, political, and physical power. What were the motivations, ideas, beliefs, and attitudes that made that possible? How much have human actions and attitudes changed since then?


More Chapters Coming Soon! View Full Schedule Below


May 2022

Chapter 3:The African Diaspora - How did human beings stacked together in the stifling heat survive the Middle Passage? Where did the four winds blow the slave traders’ ships, and what fates awaited their captives? How have the strands of the Diaspora woven the many African American cultures?

Chapter 4: The Brutality of History - This is the hardest chapter. It speaks of human behaviors we would all love to forget—if only denying or minimizing them were not so destructive to all of us. How do we learn to face these hard truths together? How do we all learn to honor our humanity?

July 2022

Chapter 5: The Struggle - Generation after generation of African Americans produced untold numbers of people who never gave up. Who were those heroes, and what would they want us to remember? Where did their courage come from? Where is our courage coming from, and how do we use it now?

Chapter 6: The Strength - What have been the sources of Black strength, Black ingenuity, Black genius, Black creativity, Black love? How have the strengths of African Americans survived so much adversity—and how brightly might they shine in a fairer, more equitable world?

September 2022

Chapter 7: Policies, Systems, and Institutions - How do inequitable policies affect systems and institutions? How do policies meant to deprive one population end up depriving others, too? How does inequity within systems affect the health and functioning of the institutions we all rely on?

Chapter 8: Healthcare for Black Lives - How deep are the roots of Black mistrust of health systems—including behavioral health? Is it just about the past, or are health systems still failing African Americans in significant ways? How do we earn the trust necessary for public health and well-being?

November 2022

Chapter 9: The Wounds We Carry - What physical, psychological, and spiritual wounds have the past 400 years left in African Americans? And how do we heal the combined effects of historical trauma and moral injury, in a society where African Americans still are exposed to insult and injury on a daily basis?

Chapter 10: The Choices We Make - Is history all in the past, or do we still make decisions every day that can affect the health and healing of history, of other people, and of ourselves? And as individuals, as communities, as a field, and as a nation, where—and how—do we go on from here?