Antonia Hylton in conversation with Blayne Alexander - Madness

Antonia Hylton in conversation with Blayne Alexander - Madness

Wednesday, Jan 31, 2024

The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library
441 John Lewis Freedom Parkway, NE
Atlanta, Georgia 30307

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 New York Times bestselling author Clint Smith describes as "a book that left me breathless."

The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and A Cappella Books welcome Peabody and two-time Emmy award-winning journalist Antonia Hylton to discuss her new book, "Madness: Race and Insanity in a Jim Crow Asylum." The author will appear in conversation with Atlanta-based correspondent for NBC News, Blayne Alexander.

This event is free and open to the public. Copies of the book will be available for purchase at the venue. Masks are optional.

About the Book

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.

About the Author

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. She lives in Brooklyn.

About the Conversation Partner

Blayne Alexander is an Atlanta-based correspondent for NBC News, where she reports for "NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt," "The Today Show" and MSNBC.

A four-time Emmy Award nominee, Blayne has led the network's coverage of some of the biggest stories in recent history, including the 2020 and 2022 elections in Georgia, the COVID-19 pandemic, nationwide protests around racial injustice and, most recently, the Fulton County investigation and indictment of former President Trump, a beat on which she has landed several exclusive interviews.

While Blayne's stories have taken her around the world – including assignments in Singapore, Australia, Wimbledon, and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro – much of her reporting focuses on race and politics in the US.
Blayne began her career in Augusta, Georgia, before moving to Atlanta as a reporter and anchor for NBC affiliate WXIA-TV. She later spent time as a Washington correspondent for NBC News Channel. Her work has been honored by the Gracie Awards and Atlanta Press Club, among others.

A proud Oklahoma City native, Blayne is graduate of Duke University and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and National Association of Black Journalists. She and her husband, James Bailey, live in Atlanta with the joy of their lives - their daughter, Sage Milan Bailey.