During the nineteenth century, thousands of Black women were treated in state mental
asylums throughout the US South. However, their unique experiences have been neglected
in the history of psychiatry. This article considers the lives of African American women
who were sent to the infamous Georgia Lunatic Asylum in the 1880s and 1890s. It argues
that post-slavery psychiatric practices worked in tandem with a myriad of postbellum
social realities, including cultural constructions of Black femininity, poverty, intimate partner violence, and racism, to distinguish Black women’s experiences of “insanity” and
psychiatric incarceration from those of their white female counterparts and white and
Black men. The psychiatric discourses developed to manage nineteenth-century Black
women’s minds and bodies set the stage for their experiences of mental disability and
treatment for generations to come.