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Stories from the Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum


seven thousand bodies

The Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum operated in Jackson from 1855 to 1935. During that time, 35,000 patients were admitted, 10,500 of whom died. In 2012, a construction project at the current-day University of Mississippi Medical Center uncovered 66 burials at the site of the old asylum. As of May 2017, radar estimate as many as 7,000 bodies may be buried there. Through interviews and archival research, this project attempts to tell their forgotten stories.

 

Their lives matter. Their deaths matter.
They're all a part of us.

Karen Clark

 

listen

This radio documentary weaves together the stories of four narrators, ranging from descendants to experts. Follow me as I seek to understand how the state asylum served as a case study for how Mississippi institutions constructed deviance and upheld systems of power in the Jim Crow South. 

 
 

voices

 

Donna Brown

Public Relations and Museum Docent,
Mississippi State Hospital

Karen Clark

Great-great-great-granddaughter of patient Isham Earnest (d. 1857)

Ralph Didlake

Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Director of the Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities

Hazel
McCarty

Great-niece of patient Ada Wynne (d. 1906)

Mab Segrest

2017-2018 Fellow, National Humanities Council 

Author, Administrations of Lunacy: Race, Psychiatry, and Georgia’s State Hospital

An in-depth analysis contextualizing these interviews with archival data is available here, courtesy of ProQuest and presented in completion of an MA in Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi. 

To be continued

My hope is that this project will  evolve as the asylum hill research consortium continues its work, and that the stories shared here will provide both a reminder of the human element behind an archaeological gold mine, and an impetus for further allocation of resources toward bringing justice to those that lie beneath.

 

Acknowledgments

Museum photographs courtesy of the Mississippi State Hospital Museum.

Historic images courtesy of the Archives and Record Services Division,

Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Karen Clark and Hazel McCarty images from personal collections, captured by Rachel Childs. 

Topography (cover) image courtesy of University of Mississippi Medical Center.

All remaining photography by Rachel Childs. 

Music: The Stream by The Pangolins is licensed under a Attribution-ShareAlike License.

 
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