Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Tahirah Abdullah

Second Advisor

Tiffany Donaldson

Third Advisor

Lizabeth Roemer


For African Americans, historical trauma is described as collective psychological, emotional and cognitive distress, producing an intergenerational impact through repeated experiences of oppression that both stems from slavery and continues into the present day through patterned experiences of racism (Williams-Washington & Mills, 2018). The current study explored the association between historical racial trauma, resistance and empowerment against racism, self-compassion, and internalized racism, and symptoms of depression in a sample of 100 African American adults. Due to low internal reliability of the measure, self-compassion in the context of historical trauma could not be examined. The study included exploration of simple correlations, main effects, moderation, and moderated mediation models to better understand the relations among the remaining variables. Results revealed that internalized racism, impact of historical trauma, and resistance against racism were all significantly, positively associated with depression symptoms. Historical racial trauma significantly predicted both internalized racism and resistance against racism. Further, resistance against racism significantly moderated the relation between the impact of historical racial trauma and internalized racism, as well as the relation between the impact of historical racial trauma and symptoms of depression, with higher levels of resistance associated with stronger relations among the other variables. Results also revealed that internalized racism partially mediated the relation between impact of historical racial trauma and symptoms of depression and that the mediation effect was stronger among those higher in resistance against racism. The study findings demonstrate the importance of determining how resistance and advocacy can be more thoughtfully approached, given their impact on mental health symptoms. The findings also indicate the significant emotional harm associated with the impact of historical trauma in the United States and the urgent need to address collective trauma with communal interventions.