Virginia Asylum’s Racist Records

This is a short and informative article that highlights the importance of studying the history of mental institutions as a way of informing the public to deeply engrained racist practices that continue to effect society today.  Professor King Davis has been working since 2007 to preserve the archives of the Central Lunatic Asylum located twenty-five miles south of Richmond, Virginia.  Central Lunatic Asylum was established in 1868 as the first exclusively African American institution.  The records being examined are in a fragile state and offer little in context of the patient’s individual experiences, however, they do shine light on the horrible conditions and ideologies they endured.  African American men were especially vulnerable to inhumane “treatments” due to the racist notion that these men were dangerous and aggressive if not under white control i.e., enslaved. It’s an important piece because racist histories such as those of asylums can point to larger issues within society, many of which have remained unresolved such as in the case of racially motivated police brutality and inequitable medical care.

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