In the tradition of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, a page-turning 93-year history of Crownsville Hospital, one of the nation’s last segregated asylums, that the New York Times described as “fascinating…meticulous research” and bestselling author Clint Smith endorsed it as “a book that left me breathless.”

Product Code: 9273
ISBN: 9781538723692
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Legacy Lit
Pages: 368
Published Date: 01/23/2024
Availability:In stock
Price: $30.00

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. Madness transports readers behind the brick walls of a Jim Crow asylum.

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. As Crownsville Hospital grew from an antebellum-style work camp to a tiny city sitting on 1,500 acres, the institution became a microcosm of America’s evolving battles over slavery, racial integration, and civil rights. During its peak years, the hospital’s wards were overflowing with almost 2,700 patients. By the end of the 20th-century, the asylum faded from view as prisons and jails became America’s new focus. 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.

Bookmark and Share


Part One – Breaking Ground
Chapter One:A Negro Asylum
Chapter Two:All the Superintendent’s Men
Chapter Three:What Could Drive a Black Person Mad?
Chapter Four:What Could Drive a Black Person Mad?
Chapter Five:The Architecture of Injustice

Part Two – Fear and Fury
Chapter Six:Cousin Maynard
Chapter Seven:Black Men Are Escaping
Chapter Eight:A Burning House
Chapter Nine:A Bus Ride to Rosewood

Part Three – The Promise of Integration
Chapter Ten:Love and Broken Promises
Chapter Eleven:Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Chapter Twelve:Medical and Surgical
Chapter Thirteen:Nurse Faye and Sonia King

Part Four – Black Power and Pathology
Chapter Fourteen:Screaming at the Sky
Chapter Fifteen:The Curious Case of the Elkton Three
Chapter Sixteen:Sympathy for Me but Not Thee

Part Five – Where Have All the Patients Gone?
Chapter Seventeen:In the Balance
Chapter Eighteen:Irredeemable or Incurable
Chapter Nineteen:The Fire
Epilogue:But for the Grace of God

Acknowledgements Sources Reading Group Guide

USA Today Bestseller

National Indie Bestseller

ELLE Magazine's Best (and Most Anticipated) Nonfiction Books of 2024

Entertainment Weekly’s Best Books to Read 2024

“Fascinating…meticulous research.”?The New York Times

“A thoroughgoing, often shocking exposé of segregation in the treatment (or nontreatment) of mental illness. [A] strong contribution to the literature of both mental health care and civil rights.”?Kirkus (Starred Review)

“Hylton writes a scathing exposé on the bigotry that led to the mistreatment of hundreds of Black patients and the attempts to cover it up. Her book is also a call to action to reform the systems that treat people diagnosed with mental illnesses…This well-researched title is an important chronicle of the treatment of Black Americans and their mental health during the Jim Crow era. Beyond promoting systemic change, Hylton compels readers to look within to assess how they treat and view the people around them.”?Library Journal

“A meticulous work of research and commitment . . . Madness is a radically complex work of historical study, etching the intersections of race, mental health, criminal justice, public health, memory, and the essential quest for human dignity.”?ELLE

"Hylton spent a decade researching the history of Crownsville, a segregated mental hospital that operated in Maryland for 91 years. The result is not just a work of painstaking reporting, but a deeply human, often tragic story of an American failure to care for Black minds and bodies."?The New York Times - Editors' Choice

"Madness is an all-too-true story, tirelessly and comprehensively reported, of the reinstatement of antebellum conditions under the guise of mental-health treatment — an asylum for so-called “feeble-minded” Blacks that was, in fact, little more than slavery by another name. Antonia Hylton’s sensitive, searching account of the people forever changed by this place — and its very clear, dreadful connection to today’s carceral state — will leave you dumbfounded.”?Robert Kolker, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, Hidden Valley Road

"Antonia Hylton expertly weaves together a moving personal narrative, in-depth reporting, and illuminating archival research to produce a book that left me breathless. Madness is a haunting and revelatory examination of the way that America's history of racism is deeply entangled in our mental health system. A profoundly important book that helps us make sense of an underexamined aspect of our country’s history."?Clint Smith, New York Times bestselling author of Above Ground and How the Word is Passed

Madness is a necessary and unforgettable book. It is a particular story of a Jim Crow institution that devastated the lives of many suffering Black Americans, but it is also a collective story about how mental health care is a social justice issue, and a personal story about love, loss, and holding onto loved ones through the ravages of living. With powerful and vulnerable writing, alongside diligent research, Hylton has delivered an important and timely work.”?Imani Perry, National Book Award winner and New York Times bestselling author of South to America

Be the first to submit a review on this product!
Review and Rate this Item

You might also be interested in: