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Walter B. Hoye II

A Weekly Column By Walter B. Hoye II
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Environmental Products (8)

The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment ·

Poor, Rural Black American Men In The South Thought They Were Receiving "Free Health Care" From The United States Government

"The United States government did something that was wrong–deeply, profoundly, morally wrong. It was an outrage to our commitment to integrity and equality for all our citizens … clearly racist!" — President William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton's apology for the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment to the eight remaining survivors, May 16th, 1997 1

Tuskegee Experiment Test Subjects

For forty (40) years between 1932 and 1972, the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) conducted an experiment on 399 black men in the late stages of syphilis. 2

By 1910 my grandparents, in the South are two (2) and four (4) years old.

Executive Summary

"Arguably The Most Infamous Bio-Medical Research Study In U.S. History" 3

"The men's status did not warrant ethical debate. They were subjects, not patients; clinical material, not sick people." — Dr. John R. Heller, M.D., Director of the Public Health Service's Division of Venereal Diseases 4

Doctor injecting a patient with placebo as part of the Tuskegee Syphilis StudyBetween 1932 and 1972 in Tuskegee, Alabama the United States Public Health Service (PHS), which by the fall of 1979 would become the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) 5,6 wholly dedicated to "improving the health, safety, and well-being of America," 7 studied the natural progression of untreated syphilis in Black American men who thought they were receiving free health care from their government to the bitter end. 8 United States Public Health Service investigators recruited a total of six hundred (600) impoverished, Black American sharecroppers from Macon County, Alabama. 9 Three hundred and ninety-nine (399) had previously contracted syphilis before the study began. Two hundred and one (201) never had the disease. 10 As reasonable compensation for participating in the study, the Black American men Doctor injecting a patient with placebo as part of the Tuskegee Syphilis Studywere offered a free health care plan that included free meals and free burial insurance from the then trusted United States government11 The test subjects were never told they had syphilis and they were never treated for it. 12 According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the men were told they were being treated for "bad blood," a local term used to describe several illnesses, including syphilis, anemia and fatigue. 13 While the Tuskegee study failed all ethical standards (including the 1947 Nuremberg Code14) protecting the legal rights of research subjects and prohibiting human experimentation, it was especially villainous, vile and vicious because the study's researchers knowingly failed to treat patients after penicillin was validated as an effective cure for syphilis in the 1940s. 15 IN SUMMARY: Twenty-eight (28) men died of syphilis, one-hundred (100) men died from related complications, at least forty (40) wives were infected and nineteen (19) children contracted congenital syphilis at birth. 16

By 1932 my parents, born in the South, are two (2) and three (3) years old.

Part One: The Background

Working "For The Glory Of Science"

"The Longest Non-Therapeutic Experiment On Humans In Medical History" 17

"The Tuskegee Study 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." — James Howard Jones, Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment 18

Doctor drawing blood as part of the Tuskegee Syphilis StudyThe Oslo study of Untreated Syphilis, began in 1909 and was published in 192819 This epidemiological investigation of the natural course of the syphilitic infection based upon a re-study of the "Boeck-Bruusgaard Material" reported on the natural history of untreated syphilis in White males20 By 1932 the overtly racist assumptions then prevalent in American medicine, inclined physicians to believe that syphilis would react differently in Black American men21 Dr. Taliaferro Clark, who is credited with the Tuskegee study's origin, initially wanted to study untreated Tuskegee Syphilis Study Macon County Letter To Patientssyphilis in a group of Black American men for six (6) to eight (8) months and then follow up with a treatment phase. 22 However, Dr. Clark didn't like how expensive the treatment phase of the study was, calling the "spinal taps" given to the patients "treatment" and agreed with the deceptive methods recommended by his deputy, Dr. Raymond H. Vonderlehr, such as not disclosing the seriousness of untreated syphilis and misrepresenting daily doses of aspirin and iron supplements as useful medication to the volunteers of the study. 23,24 To better understand Dr. Clark's attitude toward the Black American's in the study, when referring to the volunteers he said: "These Negroes are very ignorant and easily influenced by things that would be of minor significance in a more intelligent group." 25 Dr. Clark Tuskegee Study Promotion Flyerretired after the first year and was replaced by Dr. Vonderlehr who went on to gain the consent of the volunteers to endure "spinal taps" by calling them "special free treatment." 26,27 Dr. Vonderlehr retired in 1943 and was replaced by Dr. John R. Heller as Director of the United States Public Health Service's Division of Venereal Diseases28 In 1972 when the public learned the truth about the study, Dr. Heller refused to acknowledge the inherent inhumanity of the study, its similarities to Nazi human experimentation and defended the study's unethical practices saying: "There was nothing in the experiment that was unethical or unscientific." 29 "For the most part, doctors and civil servants simply did their jobs. Some merely followed orders, others worked for the glory of science." 30

By the end of 1956 I am four (4) months old in Detroit, Michigan.

Part Two: On The Hill

A Congressional Hearing Was In Order

The Democratic Party Called for A Congressional Hearing To Investigate

"I didn't want to believe it. This was the Public Health Service. We didn't do things like that." — Peter Buxtun, the whistleblower responsible for ending the Tuskegee syphilis experiment. 31

Peter Buxton Exposes The Tuskegee StudyIn December of 1965 Peter Buxtun, a social worker and epidemiologist in San Francisco, was hired by the Public Health Service to interview patients with sexually transmitted diseases. 32 In the course of his work, Buxtun learned of the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. In November 1966 he filed an official protest and the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) responded by asserting that the study must continue until all of the patients had died, allowing the researchers the opportunity Jean Heller Tuskegee Study Washington Star Articleto autopsy all the patients. 33 This conclusion was also backed by the National Medical Association and the American Medical Association34 In 1968 Buxtun, filed another protest and again, his concerns were ruled irrelevant. 35 By 1972 Peter Buxtun leaked information on the Tuskegee Experiment to Associated Press reporter Jean Heller (no relation to Dr. John R. Heller). Jean Heller's story, in the Washington Evening Star Tuskegee Termination Memo from the Department Of Health, Education, And Welfare Office Of The Secretaryexposing the ruthlessly racist Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment was published on Tuesday, July 25th, 197236 The next day, the story became front-page news in the New York Times. 37 Senator Edward Kennedy from Massachusetts, a member of the Democratic Party, called for a Congressional hearing where Peter Buxtun testified. 38 Shortly thereafter (Thursday, November 16th, 1972) the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment was terminated. 39 Thank God! Understandably, the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment created a deep and abiding distrust of governmental health care programs among Black Americans that is still in effect today.

By 1972 I am a sixteen (16) year old, high schooler in California.

In 1972 Democrat Carl Bert Albert was Speaker of the House.

Part Three: In The White House

A Presidential Apology Was In Order

The Democratic Party Reached Out To Restore The Trust Of Black American's

"What was done cannot be undone. But we can end the silence. We can stop turning our heads away. We can look at you in the eye and finally say on behalf of the American people, what the United States government did was shameful, and I am sorry … To our African American citizens, I am sorry that your federal government orchestrated a study so clearly racist." — President William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton's apology for the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment to the eight remaining survivors, May 16th, 1997 40

President Clinton Apologies To The Survivors Of The Tuskegee StudyThe United States Public Health Service's Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment was reminiscent of Nazi experiments in Nuremberg. For twenty-five (25) years Black Americans lived with the explanation that the United States Public Health Service's researchers "merely followed orders" or sacrificially "worked for the glory of science." I do not have the words to express how much it meant to Black Americans to hear President Clinton, on Friday, May 16th, 1997 apologize to the surviving Tuskegee patients on behalf of the nation.

By 1997 I am a licensed and ordained Baptist preacher in the Bay Area.

President Clinton Apologies To The Survivors Of The Tuskegee Study"To the survivors, to the wives and family members, the children and the grandchildren, I say what you know: No power on Earth can give you back the lives lost, the pain suffered, the years of internal torment and anguish. What was done cannot be undone. But we can end the silence. We can stop turning our heads away. We can look at you in the eye and finally say, on behalf of the American people: what the United States government did was shameful. And I am sorry. The American people are sorry — for the loss, for the years of hurt. You did nothing wrong, but you were grievously wronged. I apologize and I am sorry that this apology has been so long in coming." 41

Today I work full time in the Pro-Life movement to reach Black America.

Please NoteIn 1973, just sixty-seven (67) days after Merlin K. DuVal, Assistant Secretary to the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW), wrote to Dorothy P. Rice, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), to terminate the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment in 1972, the United States Supreme Court decided both Roe and Doe, establishing a constitutional right to abortion on demand. 42

In 1972 Richard Milhous Nixon was President of the United States of America.


A New Order Is In Order

"Sincere," "Sound" and "Good-Faith" Investments Are Needed

"I think he [Mitt Romney] has serious ideas. I just think those ideas would scare a lot of the American public. And I think that when the public hears them and hears that he is serious, then we get down to we're not talking about Obamacare, we're talking about your health care, we're talking about your Social Security, we're talking about your Medicare. When it starts coming into my house — that's why I said when I spoke at the Martin Luther King Memorial, it's not about Obama, it's about your momma." — Al Sharpton, on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Live Thursday, December 29th, 2011 43

A New Order TodayI am often asked to explain "how can" and "why do" Black American's embrace Obamacare. Frankly … While Black Americans have already experienced the manifold blessings of "free health care" under both White Democratic and White Republican administrations, the Democratic Party has publicly acknowledged America's racist tendencies and boldly invested in Black America by way of Black Americans. This is not to say that the Democratic Party's investments in my community have been "sincere," "sound" or even "good-faith" investments. Not at all. However, this is to deliberately say, that "sincere," "sound" and "good-faith" investments are exactly how New Order Investments by the Republican Party can and will effectively reach voters in communities of color. So what does this look like? "Sincere," "sound" and "good-faith" investments have always had the power to make amends. "Sincere" investments will acknowledge and accept responsibility for the harm caused by past failures to love communities of color and model genuinely new behavior by spending the time, talent and treasure required to renew and reconcile the relationship. "Sound" investments will overcome the damage to communities of color caused by "politically expedient" spending on entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid by getting resources out of Washington, D.C. and back into the private sector where they can be used productively to create businesses and jobs. "Good-faith" investments will make room at the decision table for members from communities of color and meet the physical needs of women, children and broken families without violating their religious convictions.


"What I ask for the Negro is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice." — Frederick Douglass , "What The Black Man Wants" at the Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in Boston, April, 1865, Please note that Douglass' speech was given within days of the close of the Civil War and the assassination of President Lincoln44

EpilogueIt's interesting to note that January 2004 marked the death of Ernest Hendon, the last survivor of the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. Hendon was in the control group that did not have syphilis. He was 96 years old. It's also interesting to note that January 2012 marked the 40th year since the termination of the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. Furthermore, it's very interesting to note that January 2013 will mark the beginning of the 40th year of legalized abortion on demand that deliberately targets communities of color. As I earnestly reflect on these dates, I can't help but wonder … Could all this just be interesting? Or am I seeing a pattern? To be more specific and more to the point … Could all this just be coincidence? Or am I actually seeing the reality of an old, evil and eugenic effort to eliminate communities of color still at work in America? In the privacy of my heart, I know the answer. Don't you? In the privacy of our hearts, don't we all know the answer?

Brothers, we really need to talk.


· Frequently Asked Questions Examining Tuskegee: Question: Why is it called the Tuskegee Study? Answer: "The formal title of the Study in its first medical publications was 'Untreated Syphilis in the Male Negro.' Beginning in 1954, the publications after that called it 'the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis' or 'the Tuskegee Study.' It is not uncommon to name medical studies after the geographic location where they are done. When the newspaper story on the Study broke in 1972, the AP reporter Jean Heller called it 'the Tuskegee Study' and the term 'the Tuskegee Experiment' is often used as well." Source:


01. Presidential Apology, U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee (
02. Tuskegee Experiment Test Subjects, "Biomedical Ephemera, Or: A Frog for Your Boils." A photograph from this blog for all biological and medical ephemera, from the age of Abraham through the era of medical quackery and cure-all nostrums. (
03. Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, Wikipedia (
04. Tuskegee University, "Impact on Health Care," Quote from the Director of Venereal Diseases at the Public Health Service from 1943 to 1948 (
05. Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, Wikipedia (
06. United States Public Health Service, Wikipedia (
07. United States Department of Health and Human Services, Wikipedia (
08. Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, Wikipedia (
09. Ibid.
10. Ibid.
11. Ibid.
12. Ibid.
13. Ibid.
14. Nuremberg Code, Wikipedia (
15. Penicillin, Wikipedia (
16. Back to Tuskegee, by Jeanne Winstead, Slide No. 16. (
17. James Howard Jones, Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment (
18. Ibid. (
19. The Oslo Study of Untreated Syphilis Review and Commentary, British Journal of Venereal Diseases, June 1956; 32(2): 70–78 (
20. Ibid.
21. The Oslo Study, "Faces of Tuskegee" by the Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences at Michigan State University (
22. Ibid., Dr. Taliaferro Clark (
23. Ibid.
24. Alan Bellows, "Bad Blood In Tuskegee" (
25. Dave Wong and Stephanie Lord, "People of the Tuskegee Experiment" ( See also the LeNoir: Tuskegee Syphilis Study Lecture on video (
26. Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, "Study Clinicians" (
27. Dave Wong and Stephanie Lord, "People of the Tuskegee Experiment," Dr. Raymond H. Vonderlehr (
28. Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, "Study Clinicians," Dr. John R. Heller led the national division (
29. Aftermath of the Study, Dr. John R. Heller quote: ( See also New York Times, July 26, 1972, p1.
30. Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, "Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs, and the Press" Dr. John Heller's quote is in the chapter entitled: "The History of 'Black Paranoia'" on page 67 (
31. Peter Buxtun, Wikipedia (
32. Ibid.
33. Ibid.
34. Study Termination, Wikipedia (
35. Peter Buxtun, Wikipedia (
36. Ibid.
37. Ibid. See also "Effects of untreated syphilis in the negro male, 1932 to 1972: A closure comes to the Tuskegee study, 2004," by Shamim M. Baker, Otis W. Brawley and Leonard S. Marks of the Urological Sciences Research Foundation. The article by Jean Heller, front page, New York Times, July 26, 1972. Investigative journalism first brought the story to public attention ( This news story is the property of Associated Press via Valeo Intellectual Property, Inc.
38. Ibid.
39. Memorandum, Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Office of The Secretary, Merlin K. DuVal, M.D. says: "As recommended by the Tuskegee Syphilis Study Ad Hoc Advisory Panel, I have decided that the 'Tuskegee Study' as a study of untreated syphilis must be terminated." (
40. Presidential Apology, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee" (
41. Ibid.
42. Roe v. Wade, Wikipedia (
43. Al Sharpton, "It's Not About Obama, It's About Your Momma" (
44. Frederick Douglass, "What The Black Man Wants" at the Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in Boston, April, 1865, Douglass delivered the following speech on the subject: The Equality Of All Men Before The Law. Again, please note that Douglass' speech was given within days of the close of the Civil War and the assassination of President Lincoln. (

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