The Macksey Journal


In the years following emancipation, something peculiar was observed in the mental state of Black Americans: they were going insane in large numbers. What was once a rarity was growing to become an epidemic. Nineteenth century psychiatric specialists believed that freedom was the culprit behind the rising rate of insanity in Black Americans. The purpose of this work is to examine the arguments of why freedom caused insanity in Black Americans, and how the increasing diagnosis of insanity post emancipation was used to aid discrimination. Knowledge of this segment of psychology’s history is crucial to understanding how the treatment of mentally ill African American evolved over time. This project will give an in depth look into black insanity post-emancipation by analysing primary and secondary source documents pertaining to psychologists and asylums of the mid to late nineteenth century. This work will prove that increasing insanity diagnosis among African Americans was effectively used as a reason to justify institutionalization and future discrimination towards Black Americans.