Ten Evenings

Antonia Hylton

“Without having the tools or the language to talk about it, I became aware of something early; our traumas and illnesses are frequently intertwined with American History and the peculiar reality of being Black. And at times, our traumas would be compounded and exacerbate by poor, discriminatory, or nonexistent treatment when we needed support the most.”

Antonia Hylton, Madness

In Madness, Peabody and Emmy award-winning journalist Antonia Hylton chronicles the 93-year history of Crownsville Hospital and the stories of Black families whose mental health suffered as they tried, and sometimes failed, to find safety and dignity.

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, 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. The New York Times describes Madness as “fascinating…meticulous research” and bestselling author Clint Smith endorses it as “a book that left me breathless.”

Antonia Hylton is a Peabody and Emmy-award winning journalist at NBC News reporting on politics and civil rights, and the co-host of the hit podcast Southlake and Grapevine. 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.

“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, author of How the Word is Passed

Books

Copies of Madness are available to purchase from White Whale Bookstore. After the lecture, the author will sign books in the Music Hall Foyer.

WHEN

February 10, 2025 at 7:30 p.m. ET

SUBSCRIBE TODAY

Unlock our lowest ticket prices with a full-season subscription.

SUBSCRIBE AND SAVE

In-person subscriptions include online access passes to all ten lectures ($200 value).

WHERE

Carnegie Music Hall (Oakland)

WATCH AT HOME

Your Online Access Subscription includes a livestream of each lecture, as well as on-demand access during a viewing period of one week.

BUY NOW

Upcoming Lectures

Anna Monardo

MAY 23

Liann Tsoukas and Rob Ruck

JUN 20

Colm Toibin

SEP 16

Pico Iyer

SEP 30