Race and Insanity in a Jim Crow Asylum
by Antonia Hylton
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Pub Date 23 Jan 2024 | Archive Date 31 Dec 2023
Grand Central Publishing, Legacy Lit
Full galley will be uploaded later this summer, but enjoy an excerpt now!
When we learn about the global history of mental healthcare and the birth of institutions like the asylum, Black patients are conspicuously absent from the history books, excluded from the narrative of recovery. Nowhere is this truer than in the history of Maryland’s Crownsville Hospital for the Negro Insane. Founded in 1911, Crownsville Hospital was one of the few American segregated asylums with surviving records. During its peak years, it held 2,657 subjects, and for decades served as the only mental hospital in the State of Maryland that would accept Black patients.
In Madness, Emmy award-winning news correspondent, Antonia Hylton explores Crownsville’s history and how the legacy of slavery and racist stereotypes ultimately pave the way to the criminalization and stigmatization of Black patients. Madness is using journalistic investigation, photographs, original research, interviews, primary sources, and newspaper records to raise questions about our country’s incomplete narrative. Hylton moves between anecdotal accounts from within Crownsville and wider-lens perspectives on how it shaped the legacy of care and empathy for Black people. She connects the aftermath of chattel slavery to Crownsville, where patients were also forced to work the land. She explores treatment from the medical staff and the fearmongering in surrounding neighborhoods. And she examines the state of our broken medical healthcare system of today. Above all, Madness provides deep context on who is considered redeemable, centered on those receiving the worst of what is available.