Psychological and ethical issues related to identity and inferring ancestry of African Americans

Cynthia E. Winston, Rick A. Kittles

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

16 Scopus citations


Ancestry tells a people's story in narrative form and offers a sense of identity meaning. Disparate narratives, such as those of African American ancestry and genealogy, lead to an incomplete story and fragmented identity. Most African Americans know little about their African ancestry and are unable to identify with their ancestral homeland or specific indigenous African community. In fact, many African Americans learn and come to view their history as starting during slavery in the Americas. Arguably, the identity of enslaved Africans was largely determined by his or her master (Lovejoy, 1983; Ball, 1998; Curtin, 1990). As a result, over time there have been major implications that have evolved related to the social and psychological consciousness of descendants of enslaved Africans. This type of void or disconnect in ancestry is common among African Americans, but largely absent among other groups in America. For instance, white Americans have considerable latitude in choosing ethnic identities based on ancestry. Since many whites have known mixed ancestries, from Europe, they have the choice to select from multiple ancestries. For African Americans there is but one option in choosing ethnicity-black (Nagel, 1994).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationBiological Anthropology and Ethics
Subtitle of host publicationFrom Repatriation to Genetic Identity
PublisherState University of New York Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)0791462951, 9780791462959
StatePublished - 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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