Lessons in Black History – The Tuskegee Experiment

tuskegee_experimentThe Tuskegee Experiment – In 1932 the U.S. Public Health service began conducting a study on the effects of syphilis that was conducted through the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama. The study involved 399 poor black sharecroppers who unknowingly had syphilis, and 201 black men who did not. The men were not told that they had syphilis, only that they had “bad blood,” a term used to describe any number of health problems in rural Alabama. As compensation, the men were given free meals, free medical exams and burial insurance, but they were never told that they had the disease, nor were they given any form of treatment, even after the discovery that penicillin could cure the disease in 1947. The Tuskegee Experiment lasted until 1972. Only 74 of the original test subjects were alive in 1972. During the course of the experiment, 28 of the men died as a direct result of the syphilis, another 100 died of complications related to the disease, and 40 wives of the test subjects contracted the disease. And if that’s not bad enough, 19 children where born with congenital syphilis. In 1997, President Bill Clinton offered a formal apology on behalf of the last eight survivors of the Tuskegee Experiment, publicly saying, “To our African American citizens, I am sorry that your federal government orchestrated a study so clearly racist.”

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