The most disgusting part about the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments was the deception. Generations later, many black people still cant find it in themselves to trust doctors.
I’d heard stories of the experiment from my grandmother while growing up, and I believed when she told me black people had been infected with syphilis by direct injection. It was a belief I carried with me into college, until I was politely corrected by a professor during my junior year. I was embarrassed, but she told me it was basically the same thing, explaining that untreated syphilis in sexually active men carried reverberations throughout the community. So I kept saying “injected with syphilis”, all the way up until that infamous 9/11 thread. Though nobody said anything, later it ate away at my soul for a while. In Trump America, accuracy in education is more crucial than ever. As the Intelexual Media brand grows and I’ve committed myself to using less hyperbole for clarity, I admit I made a mistake when I said “the US government injected black Americans with syphilis.” What they did was equally bad, but again, we’re saying goodbye to hyperbole. Here’s a two minute history video (that probably brought you here in the first place) and a list of 7 things I didn’t have time to mention in the video along with references.
7 Things I Wanted to Mention in This Video But Didn’t Have Time For:
- Peter Buxton was a Public Health Service venereal disease investigator. Two other people tried to blow the whistle on the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment but also went unheard.
- There were 201 control patients who did not have syphilis also included in the experiment
- The project began in the hands of the United States Public Health Service but by the 1960’s the Center for Disease Control was in charge of it, which is why Peter Buxton went to them
- The illiterate men were enticed into the study with the promises of free food and a free burial service, in addition to free healthcare for “bad blood”
- By the end of the study in 1972, only 74 of the test subjects were still alive. Atleast 128 of the subjects had died directly from syphilis or from illnesses brought on by the untreated syphilis
- The infamy of the experiments led to the National Research Act of 1974, which created a group that would regulate medical and scientific research.
- This experiment overlapped with a much shorter experiment in Guatemala from 1946-1948, in which soldiers, mental patients, and prisoners were infected with syphilis without their permission. This is where many (myself included) conflate the untreated syphilis of Alabama black men with the deliberate infection of Guatemalans at the hands of the US government. These men were given infected prostitutes or directly injected. 83 people died from the Guatemalan study, but 52% of the 1500 individuals were treated with penicillin during the study, while Tuskegee test subjects weren’t treated at all. You can find more information about the Guatemala Syphilis Experiment and the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment from the references below.
Studies show ‘dark chapter’ of medical research
Racism and Research: The Case of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study