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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 6 chapters, with the first two chapters published during Black History Month in 2022, and the final chapter to be published during Black History Month in 2023.

  1. Africa: Ripe for the Plunder
  2. America: How Did We Get Here?
  3. Policies, Systems and Institutions
  4. Health Care for Black Lives
  5. Strengths and Struggles


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 on Unsplashed  

1. Africa: Ripe
for the Plunder


The history of Africa did not start with slavery. There were civilizations, governments, communities, families, cultures, customs, religions, learning, creativity, and people who died trying to save their loved ones from capture. Where were the stolen people of this thriving but vulnerable country taken?

Slave trade in Africa and the West Indies. Photo courtesy The Guardian Weekly, January 25 2021.  

2. America: How
Did We Get Here?

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 has the brand of slavery been burned into our society? How do we move toward healing?


Future Chapters 


Chapter 3: Policies, Systems, and Instituions

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? And what are we responsible for doing?

Chapter 4: Health Care for Black Lives

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

Chapter 5: Strengths and Struggles

This final chapter will focus on the strengths that have helped and will continue to help African Americans overcome oppression, adversity, and inequity—and help their brilliance continue to change the world.

Do This





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