Taft State Hospital

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Taft State Hospital
Established 1930
Opened 1934
Closed 1970
Current Status Active
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Taft, OK
Alternate Names
  • Colored Deaf, Blind, and Orphan Institute
  • Taft State Hospital for the Negro Insane
  • Jess Dunn Correctional Center


In 1931, the Oklahoma Legislature approved the construction of a hospital for people who were both mentally ill and African American; prior to 1934 these patients were treated in separate wards at Central State Hospital in Norman, OK. An All-Black community previously known as Twine and later changed to Taft, 8 miles west of Muskogee was chosen as the building site.

Opened in 1934 to treat only African-American patients, and was unique in the country as it was run entirely by African American staff. Taft State Hospital is one of seven psychiatric facilities in the U.S. built "exclusively to care for insane and idiotic negroes,” however the homeless, poor, and senile, were housed alongside the criminally insane and epileptic and mentally retarded; completely in violation of all state and national psychiatric standards.

As the only such hospital for African Americans in the state and one of only seven in the country, Taft State Hospital for the Negro Insane quickly overcrowded and understaffed by the 1940s.

The 1940 official report from the hospitals' medical superintendent claims 305 patients received during the year; 14% being over the age of 60, 16% for dementia, 5.9% for manic depressive psychosis and 16.7% having been admitted for Syphilis. The same report from 1940 claims 91 patients died at the hospital that year; 43% over the age of 60, 22% dying less than 1 month after being admitted. The institution housed 738 patients in 11 wards. The chief medical officer was Dr. E. P. Henry and was assisted by Dr. E. E. Bowser & Dr. C. E. Ford. In the same report the hospital is said to have employed 3 nurses and used treatments such as; X-Rays, hypoglycemic shock, metrazol shock, and fever therapy and in the report the medical superintendent asks the Governor for a hydrotherapy apparatus. Surgeries performed at the hospital included 10 major operations; numerous tonsillectomies and about 15 circumcisions in 1940 alone according to the medical superintendents report!

In 1940 the institutions housing was already overly full. 24 confirmed Tubercular patients were being housing in the regular wards along with other patients instead of in their own ward. Child patients with mental disabilities were not housed or treated separately from chronically ill children. Staff had just one room to live in (the Griffin Hospital superintendent had an entire house on the property, with nurses housed in their own apartments). Meanwhile the larger institution had its own laundry on site, as well as a butcher, bakery, dairy, and farmland where most of the foods used were grown and cultivated by patients. Religious (mostly Christian) services were held on Sundays in the Dining Hall for patients. During warmer months outdoor activities consisted of baseball for the men, volleyball and handball for the females. Arguably most notably, the hospital boasted a chorus made up of over 30 patients.

In 1949 the State Government determined the consolidation of The Institute for Colored Blind, Deaf, and Orphans, The State Hospital for the Negro Insane, and The Training School for Negro Girls; (all had been located in or near Taft).

In 1964, state mental hospitals were desegregated and patients at Taft began to be moved to the state hospitals in Vinita and Norman, OK.

Closed in 1970 and converted into a correctional facility (the 3rd such state penitentiary to be placed in Taft by the state in the 100 years since it was founded as an All-African American town), which is still in operation today.