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A Case Study: Efforts Toward Differentiation of Self Among Slaves and their Descendants
 
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Code: DJ 7.2 (1) Keller
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Mignonette Nunn Keller, PhD

In the late 1970s Dr. Murray Bowen asked, "How does a slave develop a self in an oppressive, dehumanizing system forcing him into a no self-position?" This case study addresses that question by following the life course of the progenitor of one African American family. The family historical information for the analysis was taken from a larger study of four black and four white families with a common heritage. In the original study, statistical and historical documents were utilized to verify the accuracy of the data collected, using a semi-structured questionnaire as an adjunct to the family diagram. Findings in the case study indicate that protective factors which positively influenced the functioning of the slaves included: (1) caring, nurturing relationships, (2) timing and circumstances of the sale of slaves, and (3) the relationships of slaves with their de facto families. The findings further suggest that slaves who had a higher level of functioning possibly: (1) exercised independent thinking in relation to many customs and traditions of slavery, (2) accepted their black and white heritage, (3) maintained open, fluid relationships with both black and white family members, and (4) openly discussed their enslavement following their emancipation.


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