A macabre tale for Halloween

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Just had this published on philly.com, a chilling take for All Hallow’s Eve. It’s about former Negro Leagues player Alex Albritton and his violent death in a Philadelphia mental hospital more than 70 years ago.

There are a handful of thoughts I wanted to add that I couldn’t fit in the story … First off, many thanks to Gary Ashwill for tipping me off to this topic. He, as usual, has been a huge help.

A few other reflections on the Albritton story, many of them stemming from some of the biased contemporary coverage of the day, much of which seemed to place the blame for Albritton’s death on him himself, not the attendant and/or the deplorable conditions and staffing at the hospital. The mainstream coverage also made sure to point out repeatedly that Albritton was a “Negro” without further discussing the obvious racial dynamics and undertones of the incident.

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Many of the articles stress that Albritton was in the violent ward and subtly hint that he almost deserved the beating because he spuriously and without warning broke a heavy broom handle over the attendant’s head, causing a huge gash in the latter’s scalp that needed stitches.

Granted, such biased reporting reflects the general attitude of the media of the day that overall refused to question authority, especially that of government. It also is part of a consistent belief — one that still lingers to this day — that both the mentally ill and African Americans, especially men, are prone to instability and violence almost by nature.

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All articles from 1940 issues of the Philadelphia Inquirer and courtesy Gary Ashwill.


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