Race, Madness, and the State: A History of African American Patients at St. Elizabeths Hospital, 1855-1970


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars




For residence at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study during academic year 2007-2008


This project focuses on African American patients at St. Elizabeths Hospital, a federal insane asylum in Washington, D.C. It begins with the hospital's creation in 1855 and ends in 1970, when the hospital began its process of deinstitutionalization. St. Elizabeths is a case study through which to explore the relationships between state institutions, medical authorities, and people of color. The account offered maps out the intersections of the historical process of racial formation, medical and cultural understandings of insanity, and the exercise of institutional power. This project promises to yield a broad understanding of the racial dimension of American society's understanding of mental illness and the racial differential of efforts by the state to deal with people defined as insane.