5 Books on the Enduring Power of Black Healing Traditions – Reckon

There’s an ongoing joke on the internet about black people and our unwavering faith in Ginger Ale and abandoning it as a cure-all. In reality, this represents the way our community has always used what we had available to us to heal ourselves and our loved ones. My grandmother recently told me that her father wasn’t very fond of doctors. Instead, he often created his own home remedies using an assortment of herbs. I mean, who can blame him, given the racism Black people have faced in healthcare then and now? We have always been a people who have learned to adapt to our environment. That’s a legacy that goes all the way back to when our ancestors were first brought to this land.

Black Joy has compiled a list of books that chronicle the history of Black healing traditions and how they continue to play a central role in our community today.

Stephanie Rose Bird, a well-known author of several books on black spirituality, takes the reader on a personal and historical journey through the forest and the magic it holds. “The Healing Tree” honors the deeply complicated, yet intimate relationship African Americans have with trees – and celebrates the ancestral wisdom inherited throughout the African diaspora about the healing and restorative power of the natural world.

This groundbreaking guide provides a comprehensive history of African American herbal medicine and highlights notable healers whose legacies live on in today’s more modern herbal medicine practices. From herbal remedies to foraging, ‘African American Herbalism’ is a practical toolkit for anyone who wants to learn more about the medicinal and medicinal uses of herbs.

Working the Roots is a collection of interviews, stories and recipes rooted in the more than 400-year legacy of African-American healers in the rural South and West Coast of the United States. This body of work is not only a history of the medical practices of formerly enslaved people and their descendants, it is also an encyclopedia of ancestral knowledge of medicinal herbs and remedies. This is a book you will return to again and again for wisdom of mind, body, and spirit.

In “Hoodoo Medicine,” author and anthropologist Faith Mitchell documents the unique history of the Gullah people of the South Carolina Sea Islands. Mitchell illustrates how formerly enslaved people and their descendants were able to use medicinal practices brought over from the continent and adapt them to their new environment. ‘Hoodoo Medicine’ captures the way the Gullah people held on to their indigenous practices for generations, as well as providing an overview of the roots and herbs that were commonly used.

“African American Folk Healing” explores the history of black healing practices dating back to slavery. Author and researcher Stephanie Mitchem reveals the breadth of these practices and how they manifest in Black communities. This book shows how these healing traditions were and continue to be an extension of the social, political, and spiritual lives of Black Americans.

You can find and buy all these books on the Black Joy Bookstore page.

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