Searcy Mental Hospital


Established in 1900 as a mental health facility to house overflow from Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa, Searcy Hospital, formerly known as Mount Vernon Insane Hospital and even the Mount Vernon Hospital for the Colored Insane, exclusively served African-Americans until it was desegregated in 1969. It was closed on Halloween 2012 as part of Alabama’s statewide mental health closures.

The grounds of the property still house the former Mount Vernon Arsenal, dating back to 1828, which stands out as a visible white castle-fort structure, being one of the most complete antebellum arsenals still standing.

According to Wikipedia, 57 patients died in 1906 due to a poor diet provided by the hospital. They died from pellagra which was caused by vitamin deficiencies.

Shot on Canon EOS M100, 15-50mm

Kelly Kazek of wrote an article in 2016 detailing the history of the Searcy Hospital. It focuses on a transition in culture taking place in the South (read with discretion).

biennial report of the Alabama Insane Hospital issued in 1902 recounts Dr. Searcy’s startling theory of the reason for increasing numbers of black patients in asylums. He claims African Americans were healthier mentally when they were enslaved.

“In this part of the United States, we are very much interested in the increasing insanity among the negroes. When they were first imported from Africa, as a rule, they were young and healthy adults, selected specimens of their tribes. During the two or three hundred years of their servitude, they were subjected to an environment of European civilization, much more sanitary and salutary than they had ever occupied before … the selfish interests of their masters enforced sanitary, regular and moral habits and the practice of higher methods of thought, as well as regular muscle exercise, more than and better than the negroes had ever practiced before … while they were slaves there was very little deterioration among them, and, consequently, little insanity. Since then, their rapidly increasing insanity is a result and an indication that many among them are mentally degenerating. It is very evident the care of the negro insane in the South will rapidly become more and more a public care and expense.”

Kelly Kazek

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