NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
‘Madness, though ostensibly the story of Crownsville, is really about the continued lack of understanding, treatment and care of the mental health of a people, Black people, who need it most’ New York Times
In the tradition of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, a page-turning 93-year history of Crownsville Hospital, one of the United States’ last segregated asylums.
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.
In Madness, Peabody and Emmy award-winning journalist Antonia Hylton tells the 93-year-old history of Crownsville Hospital. 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.
As Crownsville Hospital grew from an antebellum-style work camp to a tiny city sitting on 1,500 acres, it 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.
‘‘Madness, though ostensibly the story of Crownsville, is really about the continued lack of understanding, treatment and care of the mental health of a people, Black people, who need it most” – New York Times
‘A necessary and unforgettable book. An important and timely work.’ – Imani Perry
‘A work of pure genius’ – Jonathan Metzl
‘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
‘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.’ – Clint Smith
Antonia Hylton is a Peabody and Emmy-award winning correspondent at NBC News and NBC reporting on politics, race and justice. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University, where she received prizes for her investigative research on race, mass incarceration and the history of psychiatry. In 2022, she was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize for Audio Recording, and in 2020, she was named to Forbes‘ 30 Under 30 list.
She lives in New York.