On this date we remember the Tuskegee Syphilis study. This African-American episode is part of the recurring chapter of racism against blacks in the United States.
In 1932, the American government promised 400 men, all residents of Macon County, Alabama, all poor, and all African American, free treatment for Bad Blood, a euphemism for syphilis which was epidemic in the county.
Treatment for syphilis was never given to the men and was in fact withheld. The men became unwitting subjects for a government-sanctioned medical experiment, The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male. The Tuskegee Study, which lasted for 4 decades, until 1972, had nothing to do with treatment. No new drugs were tested; neither was any effort made to establish the efficacy of old forms of treatment.
It was a non-therapeutic experiment, aimed at compiling data on the effects of the spontaneous evolution of syphilis on black males. What has become clear since Jean Heller broke the story in 1972 was that the Public Health Service (PHS) was interested in using Macon County and its black inhabitants as a laboratory for studying the long-term effects of untreated syphilis, not in treating this deadly disease. [Continue reading at the African American Registry.]
For further reading and research, see also:
Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, New and Expanded Edition by James H. Jones.
Miss Evers’ Boys starring Alfre Woodard and Laurence Fishburne.