Tuskegee syphilis study recruitment letter.
By Gwen Sharp, PhD
The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment is one of the most famous examples of unethical research. The study, funded by the federal government from 1932-1972, looked at the effects of untreated syphilis. In order to do this, a number of Black men in Alabama who had syphilis were misinformed about their illness. They were told they had “bad blood” (which was sometimes a euphemism for syphilis, though not always) and that the government was offering special free treatments for the condition. Above is an example of a letter sent out to the men to recruit them for more examinations.
The “special free treatment” was, in fact, nothing of the sort. The researchers conducted various examinations, including spinal taps, not to treat syphilis but just to see what its effects were. In fact, by the 1950s it was well established that a shot of penicillin would fully cure early-stage syphilis. Not only were the men not offered this life-saving treatment, the researchers conspired to be sure they didn’t find out about it, getting local doctors to agree that if any of the study subjects came in they wouldn’t tell them they had syphilis or that a cure was available.
The abusive nature of this study is obvious (letting men die slow deaths that could have been easily prevented, just for the sake of scientific curiosity) and shows the ways that racism can influence researchers’ evaluations of what is acceptable risk and whose lives matter. The Tuskegee experiment was a major cause for the emergence of human subjects protection requirements and oversight of federally-funded research once the study was exposed in the early 1970s. Some scholars argue that knowledge of the Tuskegee study increased African Americans’ distrust of the medical community, a suspicion that lingers to this day.
In 1997 President Clinton officially apologized for the experiment.
Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.
Weeksville Heritage Center (WHC) is a multidimensional museum dedicated to preserving the history of the 19th century African American community of Weeksville, Brooklyn. Using a contemporary lens, we activate this unique history through the presentation of innovative, vanguard and experimental programs.
Weeksville Heritage Center presents in collaboration with Creative Time: Funk, God, Jazz & Medicine: Black Radical Brooklyn (Sept 20-Oct 12)
funkgodjazz&medicine is a walkable month-long art exhibition of four community-based art commissions by Xenobia Bailey, Simone Leigh, Otabenga Jones & Associates, and Bradford Young. Black Radical Brooklyn launches from the site of Weeksville, a Brooklyn community established by free and formerly enslaved Black citizens 11 years after abolition in New York State. Black Radical Brooklyn draws inspiration not only from this story–achieving self-determination through the claiming and holding of a neighborhood–but also from radical local battles for land and dignity from the 1960s to today.
Join us for the “Opening Party” on Saturday, September 20 at Weeksville from 2 PM - 6 PM. The exhibit will be accessible Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 12 PM - 6 PM until October 12. Learn more here.
NEW OPPORTUNITY: Free Technology Workshop for Women at Weeksville
Wednesday, July 30th & Wednesday, August 6th from 10:30AM-1:30PM
Learn hands on skills to create a resume and web searching techniques needed for identifying career opportunities on the internet with Techs4Community!
Space is limited to 8 seats per session on a ﬁrst come, ﬁrst serve basis. Brooklyn residents get ﬁrst preference.
Pre-registration is required by emailing your name, phone number, and date preference to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (718) 756-5250 x300. We will send conﬁrmation emails to those selected.
Weeksville Temporarily Suspends Historic Hunterfly Road House Tours
Tours of the Historic Hunterfly Road Houses have been temporarily interrupted while we restructure our Education Department and offerings.
Please be patient with us as we prepare for a public introduction of our new and expanded tour schedule in July/August. Check our website for updates. Inquiries should be directed to email@example.com or the Visitor Services Department at (718) 756-5250 x 300. Thank you.
Weeksville Heritage Center Presents in Collaboration with Carnegie Kids: NO BS! BRASS BAND CONCERT (June 21, 2014)
Saturday, June 21, 2014 from 12 Noon - 1 PM @ Weeksville
There are brass bands and then there’s the No BS! Brass. On a mission to get your whole body grooving, the 11 men of Richmond-based No BS! Brass push their conservatory-sharpened chops to the brink, making their own brand of high-octane, New Orleans–style brass band music. Inspired by funk, jazz, klezmer, calypso, and rock, No BS! Brass is equally at home pumping out Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” or a John Coltrane–inspired free jazz solo.
This concert is part of the citywide music festival Make Music New York which is sponsored by Target. The program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.
THE EVENT IF FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!
Weeksville Heritage Center Presents in Collaboration with Carnegie Kids: SHINE AND THE MOONBEAMS (May 17, 2014)
Saturday, May 17th @ 2 PM (Doors open at 1:30 PM) at Weeksville
This event is free and open to the public!
With retro R&B music that both kids and adults love, Shine and the Moonbeams sing about subjects kids can relate to: standing up to bullies, surviving harried morning routines, and celebrating individuality. A five-time winner of Amateur Nights at the legendary Apollo Theater, lead singer Shawana Kemp’s evocative delivery is heartfelt, insightful, and emotional.
Weeksville Announces its 2nd Annual Golf Fundraiser at Dyker Beach
Tee off for a cause! Join us on Friday, June 6 at the beautiful Dyker Beach Golf Course in Brooklyn. There will be 18 holes of golf and contests for golfers. For the non-golfing supporters there will be unlimited cocktails, delicious food, games and a silent auction, plus networking! To register, please visit our event website at www.weeksvillegolfouting.com. We hope to see you there!
Weeksville Welcomes New Executive Director Tia Powell Harris
The Board of Directors of Weeksville Heritage Center has voted to appoint Tia Powell Harris as the next Executive Director of Weeksville Heritage Center, Brooklyn’s largest African-American cultural institution. Ms. Harris, who brings more than 20 years of experience creating, directing and promoting arts education and cultural programming for some of the most distinguished institutions in the country, will lead the organization in its efforts to significantly expand its education, programming and research capabilities and elevate its standing as one of the nation’s leading centers for African American history and culture. She will begin her tenure on March 17, 2014. To read the full press release, please visit the News section.
Weeksville Partners with Brooklyn Historical Society and Irondale for In Pursuit of Freedom Exhibit
Weeksville is proud to partner with Brooklyn Historical Society and Irondale Ensemble Project on the recently opened long-term exhibit - In Pursuit of Freedom - which explores the unsung heroes of Brooklyn’s anti-slavery movement.
To learn more, please visit pursuitoffreedom.org.
Weeksville Celebrates Completion of Its Transformative Education and Cultural Arts Building in Central Brooklyn
Weeksville’s New Education & Cultural Arts Center Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony on December 11, 2013. Included are The Weeksville School (PS 243) students and teachers, Dance Africa’s Council of Elders, Caples Jefferson Architects Sara Caples and Everardo Jefferson, Pulitzer prize winning playwright Lynn Nottage, WHC Board Chair Tim Simons, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate Levin and 36th District City Councilman Robert Cornegy, among others. To read press release, please visit the News section.(via weeksvillehc)
Her ground breaking work in “Daufuskie Island” soothed my soul but made it ache still. She captured a time and place I could nolonger go to, a place that for all intense purposes no longer existed. A place that lives in the African American psyche. An island where the descendants of African slaves maintained many of the traditions and beliefs brought over on the ships from Africa.The people of the South Sea islands rich in cultural identity, the last of a dying breed. Jeanne Moutoussamy -Ashe reminded us what was about to be lost.When I found a personal autograph copy at the Strand Book store she might as well signed it just for me… go find your Daufuskie Island Nona….