On July 24, 1972, the Washington Star News 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, conducted by the United States Public Health Service at Tuskegee Institute, involved 600 poor Black sharecroppers from Macon County, Alabama, nearly 400 of whom had had previously contracted syphilis before the study began, and 201 without the disease.
For participating in the study, the men were given free medical care, meals, and free burial insurance. They were never told they had syphilis, nor were they ever treated for it, even after a cure was discovered in the 1940’s. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the men were told they were being treated for “bad blood,” a local term used to describe several illnesses, including syphilis, anemia and fatigue.
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.