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Jim Crow in the Asylum: Psychiatry and Civil Rights in the American South

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Tuesday, January 23, 2024
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Kylie Smith, PhD
Trent History of Medicine Speaker Series

The Civil Rights movement of the 1950's and 60's sought to end racial segregation in all U.S. public institutions, including hospitals. Psychiatric hospitals became political battlegrounds over segregation and patients' rights, setting the scene for disparities that continue today.

"Jim Crow in the Asylum" explores the process of desegregation and deinstitutionalization in state psychiatric hospitals in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. It draws on original records, court cases and personal testimony to expose the racist ideas that underpinned the treatment of African Americans with mental illness and saw psychiatric hospitals used as dumping grounds for some of the south's most vulnerable people.

Kylie Smith is Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Healthcare History and Policy in the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, and Associate Faculty in the History Department, at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. She earned her PhD in the history of psychiatry in Australia, and is the author of the award winning book "Talking Therapy: Knowledge and Power in American Psychiatric Nursing" published by Rutgers University Press in 2020. Her new book entitled "Jim Crow in the Asylum: Psychiatry and Civil Rights in the American South" will be published by UNC Press early in 2025 and is supported by the G13 Grant from the US National Library of Medicine.

This event is sponsored by the History of Medicine Collections in the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library and the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities & History of Medicine. The Trent Center is holding another talk by Professor Smith on Wednesday, January 24, at noon.

Contact: Rachel Ingold