Williams: In 1870, Virginia opened the first mental hospital exclusively for black patients. Today, the mental health needs of African Americans remain unmet. | History


The asylum opened in June 1870 on Fairmount Street between 20th and 23rd Streets in Church Hill, the site of a former Confederate settlement known as Howard’s Grove Hospital. By then, the Commonwealth of Virginia had taken over.

In 1885, the asylum moved to a new building on a plantation in Dinwiddie County. Nine years later it was renamed Central State Hospital, which remained isolated until 1968.

“Our past assumptions, theories and decisions regarding race and mental illness still impact our lives and our health today,” Stoney said. “This marker prompts us to ask questions about how far we’ve come from Howard’s Grove … and where do we go from here?”

You can’t answer if you don’t know where you were. Who knew that what is now Central State Hospital was rooted in a Freedman’s Bureau project in Richmond after the Civil War?

Of the. Delores McQuinn, D-Richmond, noted on Monday that when the asylum opened, nearly half of its patients were not there because of mental illness, but because of poverty, homelessness, unemployment, dislocation and various medical illnesses.

Hmm. It looks like the kind of catch-all warehouse that many American prisons perform today.

This new landmark on Fairmount Street is a sign of multigenerational trauma, including among children marked by violence. Any package of remedies for black Americans must include free access to mental health treatment.

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