This critical analysis of the literature explores the potential of African-centered psychology to address the sequelae of historical trauma in the 21st century persons of African ancestry in the United States. African American face significant health and wellness challenges including socioeconomic disparities, interpersonal violence, substance abuse, psycho-spiritual distress, and physical health issues. The literature questions the validity of mainstream psychological science to effectively conceptualize and treat persons of African ancestry, and calls for the identification of specific, culturally relevant interventions to increase physical and psychological wellness. The concept of historical trauma helps to explain the psycho-spiritual distress experienced by many persons of African ancestry in the United States, including internalized oppression, as the sequelae of unhealed wounds relates to enslavement and colonization, through the destruction of culture, language and religion, and imposition of non-inclusive systems of education, government and law. An African-centered psychology approach may alleviate suffering related to historical trauma. This dissertation further integrates the literature on the historical trauma response with the literature on African-centered psychology. Wellness goals for persons of African ancestry are identified in the literature of scholars, researchers, practitioners, activists, and community members. Concepts and strategies from an African-centered psychology framework are then explored for their potential to help illuminate challenges, address needs, and support goals, in alignment with cultural values and work currently being done in this field. Implications in the areas of epistemology, research, clinical practice, practitioner training, and public acknowledgement are explored in depth, and recommendations for incorporating African centered strategies in therapeutic interventions are made. This dissertation also identifies its own theoretical and methodological limitations, and proposes areas for future investigation. Emerging hypotheses suggest that incorporating African centered practices in therapeutic work with persons of African ancestry and their communities may offer a congruent and compatible pathway to promote psychological well-being in persons and communities of African ancestry.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (PsyD) -- Psychology; African Americans -- Psychology; African Americans -- Social conditions; Well-being -- Psychological aspects

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Rowe, Daryl M.;