On July 24, 1972, the Washington Star Newspaper exposed a 40 year experiment to examine the effects of untreated syphilis in African American men. The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment began in 1932 in Macon County, Alabama. Six hundred men, both with and without the disease, were persuaded to participate, nearly all poorly educated, impoverished sharecroppers. Participants were told the experiment would provide treatment for “bad blood.” Those with syphilis were not told they were infected, nor were they treated for the disease, even after a cure was discovered in the 1940’s. The experiment was still in process in July of 1972, when the Washington Star published an article exposing the details. Over the course of 40 years, 128 participants died of syphilis or syphilis-related complications.
Hosted by the late D’Army Bailey, Moments in Civil Rights History is produced in collaboration with the Equal Justice Initiative and is part of Comcast NBCUniversal’s “His Dream, Our Stories” project.