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Madness by Antonia Hylton

Madness by Antonia Hylton

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On a cold day in March of 1911, officials marched twelve Black men into the heart of a forest in Maryland. Under the supervision of a doctor, the men were forced to clear the land, pour cement, lay bricks, and harvest tobacco. When construction finished, they became the first twelve patients of the state's Hospital for the Negro Insane. For centuries, Black patients have been absent from our history books.

In Madness, Peabody and Emmy award-winning journalist Antonia Hylton tells the 93-year-old history of Crownsville Hospital, one of the last segregated asylums with surviving records and a campus that still stands to this day in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. She blends the intimate tales of patients and employees whose lives were shaped by Crownsville with a decade-worth of investigative research and archival documents. Madness chronicles the stories of Black families whose mental health suffered as they tried, and sometimes failed, to find safety and dignity.

Hylton also grapples with her own family's experiences with mental illness, and the secrecy and shame that it reproduced for generations. In Madness, Hylton traces the legacy of slavery to the treatment of Black people's bodies and minds in our current mental healthcare system.

It is a captivating and heartbreaking meditation on how America decides who is sick or criminal, and who is worthy of our care or irredeemable.
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