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The legacy of slavery and the health of black communities

Major DH conference to be held on 29 October, 2007

2007 is the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade in the BritishEmpire. On 22 January 2007, the Prime Minister hosted a reception for grassroots groups involved in the bicentenary and announced a package of events to commemorate the Bicentenary, centred on the following themes:

  • Raising awareness of the slave trade and its abolition
  • Commemorating those who suffered and died, and those who struggled for abolition
  • Focusing on the legacy of slavery and on contemporary injustice and inequality, and in particular what the Government and its partners are doing to:
    • Overcome poverty and injustice and build civil society on the African continent and in the Caribbean, with particular emphasis on improving access to education
    • Tackle inequality and discrimination in the UK
    • Address contemporary forms of slavery such as people trafficking
As part of this programme of activity, DH committed to hold two events:

2 April 2007: Launch of "Many Rivers to Cross - The History of the Caribbean Contribution to the NHS - 1948-1969"

29 October 2007: Conference on black and minority ethnic communities and heath inequalities (during black history month). This is in direct response to the Deputy PM's request for "legacy" events marking the bicentennial. Speakers will talk about how internationally the slave trade played Book infoa part in creating health inequalities in black and minority ethnic communities today i.e. the socioeconomic trap that people found themselves in that has proven difficult to break out of over the generations.

Dr Joy Degruy-Leary will speak first. She developed and lectures on the theory of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome. PTSS suggests that centuries of slavery followed by systemic racism and oppression have resulted in multigenerational adaptive behaviours, some of which have been positive and reflective of resilience, and others that are detrimental and destructive. In brief, Dr. Leary presents facts, statistics and documents that illustrate how varying levels of both clinically induced and socially learned residual stress related issues were passed along through generations, as a result of slavery. More info is available on her website:

The event will also be used to showcase all the work that the NHS is doing to tackle health inequalities and the central DH programmes such as Delivering Race Equality in Mental Health Care - , Pacesetters Programme - and Race for Health The conference is being run in partnership with Patrick Vernon, Publisher and Director of Every Generation Media and Foundation, which is a social enterprise in the cultural/creative industries. To find out more about the work of the Foundation and its highly successful 100 Great Black Britons Campaign, check out

Government Calendar of Events - 2007 Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act (pdf)

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