Vox has a thing called 6 myths about the history of Black people in America today, and I wondered if they were, in fact, myths. (Frequently features called "Myths and Facts About", for example, immigration, black crime, guns, et cetera will feature facts that are myths, and myths that are facts.)
But in this case, black professor Sowande Mustakeem is taking on what we've called the "Tuskegee Libel."
A dangerous myth that continues to haunt Black Americans is the belief that the government infected 600 Black men in Macon County, Alabama, with syphilis. This myth has created generations of African Americans with a healthy distrust of the American medical profession. While these men weren’t injected with syphilis, their story does illuminate an important truth: America’s medical past is steeped in racialized terror and the exploitation of Black bodies.
The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male emerged from a study group formed in 1932 connected with the venereal disease section of the US Public Health Service. The purpose of the experiment was to test the impact of syphilis untreated and was conducted at what is now Tuskegee University, a historically Black university in Macon County, Alabama.
The 600 Black men in the experiment were not given syphilis. Instead, 399 men already had stages of the disease, and the 201 who did not served as a control group. Both groups were withheld from treatment of any kind for the 40 years they were observed. The men were subjected to humiliating and often painfully invasive tests and experiments including spinal taps.
Deemed uneducated and impoverished sharecroppers, these men were lured by free medical examinations, hot meals, free treatment for minor injuries, rides to and from the hospital, and guaranteed burial stipends (up to $50) to be paid to their survivors. The study also did not occur in total secret, and several African American health workers and educators associated with the Tuskegee Institute assisted in the study.[More]
The points are that the government didn't infect poor blacks with syphilis in the thirties, they did it themselves, and that the Tuskegee Experiment was an experiment conducted by black public health officials at the famous black Tuskegee Institute, founded by Booker T. Washington.
One point that seems to be missed by Professor Mustakeem is that leaving the disease untreated was not necessarily a bad idea in the 1930s, it was one of the treatment options that a doctor might have applied to any patient, including white patients.
I blogged about it when Kathleen Parker at NRO said that black paranoia about AIDS was justified by the real-life Tuskegee experiment. I wrote
Of course, the problem with this is that the general belief about the Tuskegee Study is simply not true, and has been debunked here on VDARE.com by Jared Taylor, and by anthropologist Richard Shweder in the pages of Spiked Magazine.[Tuskegee Re-examined, January 8, 2004] It was conducted at least partly under the auspices of Booker T. Washington's famous Tuskegee Institute, hence the name. The study was run at least partly by Dr Eugene Dibble, right, and Nurse Eunice Rivers, left, who were black, and associated with the Tuskegee Institute's John Andrew Hospital.
The reason for allowing some people, (who, if I have to say this, were not infected by the government, but had acquired the disease themselves in the ordinary way) to remain untreated was that was one of the normal options for dealing with a disease that, pre-antibiotics, had few good or safe treatments. Shweder writes that syphilis therapy in the 1930's was "so weak, hazardous, lengthy, costly and difficult to administer that very few people with syphilis were willing to tolerate the drugs for the full course of the treatment."
In layman's language, this included things that didn't work, things that made you sick, and things that made you scream when the doctor did them to you. Arsenic was involved.
Earlier on VDARE.com, and by earlier, I mean up to sixteen years earlier than Vox, we have