Monday, March 17, 2008

Black men ‘injected’ with syphilis? Never happened.

You know what bothers me? When educated black people talk shit about America’s past but have the facts wrong.

Take the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama’s former pastor. In one of his now-notorious fulminations, shown on Fox News, Rev. Wright said: “The government lied about the Tuskegee experiment! They purposely infected African-American men with syphilis!”

Tonight on “The O’Reilly Factor,” it was Obery Hendricks (pictured), a professor at New York Theological Seminary... and a member of Obama’s African American Religious Leadership Committee.

Hendricks declared to Bill O’Reilly: “We do know the government injected black men with syphilis.”

And 19 years ago, during my most famous interview as a journalist, Professor Griff of the rap group Public Enemy said this:

“How about the genocide of black people perpetrated by Jews and other white folks? No, but we don’t talk about that genocide, do we? We don’t talk about the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, where black men was injected with syphilis.”

For pity’s sake, people... get it right for once. No one was injected or infected with syphilis. Okay? The U.S. government DID NOT give black men syphilis. That’s not what the Tuskegee experiment was.

In the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male,” federal researchers denied treatment to a group of black men who had syphilis already.

Which is horrible enough. Why go the extra step of accusing the government of actually poisoning people? Especially to bolster the paranoid claim that the government invented AIDS to kill people of color?

Keep your ears open, y’all, as this Jeremiah Wright story remains a media fixation. You’re bound to hear other ignorant black folks say that the U.S. government injected black men with syphilis.

Such is the staying power of bullshit.

On May 16, 1997, President Bill Clinton apologized on behalf of the United States to the survivors of the Tuskegee study.

That night, on PBS’s “NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” Charlayne Hunter-Gault interviewed Dr. Stephen Thomas, a health researcher at Emory University, and Fred Gray, a lawyer for the Tuskegee victims and their heirs. (Both of them are black.)

Ms. Hunter-Gault asked flat-out: “Did these men have syphilis before they volunteered for the experiment, or... were they injected with syphilis by the government, as many people believe?”

Dr. Thomas answered: “The common view in the black community is that the men were injected by the government doctors. And that is why you see the kind of anger, and that has been repeated by Minister Louis Farrakhan and others that really are voicing a common folk myth in the black community.

“But in my work... I have found absolutely no evidence that the men were intentionally injected by the government doctors,” he said. “And maybe we can clear that up right now on this show.”

Attorney Fred Gray added: “We made a thorough investigation of it, and we found no evidence... whatsoever that the government inflicted them with syphilis. The tragedy is bad enough, and we don’t need to make it any worse, but there is absolutely no credence to the fact that they were injected with syphilis.”

Got it, Rev. Wright? See what happens when you run your mouth off without a command of the facts? You make a joke out of yourself.

And you don’t do your congregants any favors either.

But I won’t hold my breath waiting for you to admit you were wrong, Reverend. That ain’t your style.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. I'd never heard about this before, and it was really interesting. I'll link to it over at my blog:

As for the Jeremiah Wright controversy, I'm surprised at how heavily the media has been going after this. It was only a few weeks ago that pundits were talking about Obama as if he was the Second Coming, and now they've turn their backs on him. Obama certainly hasn't made it easier on himself by making the totally unbelievable assertion that he had never heard this kind of rhetoric from Wright before.

estiv said...

See what happens when you run your mouth off without a command of the facts? You make a joke out of yourself.
I wish this were true. Maybe Rev. Wright is looking at Rush Limbaugh and thinking that if Rush can do it, so can he. But just because Rush gets away with lies doesn't mean other people should too.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. As usual, and the true bad of the experiement, is that people are not informed.

Anonymous said...



Please read:
Tuskegee University

Apology? IMO nothing less than 30 years to life for everyone involved would be sufficient.

And *$10 million* in damages is bullshit.

There is no justification whatsoever for any government to experiment on unsuspecting citizens. Utterly and absolutely reprehensible.

The fact that long term syphilis infection is irreversible and that children of these men were also infected elevates this into a Crime against Humanity.

Everyone, no matter who or how high they were, should have been indicted, tried, sentenced and imprisoned for not less than 30 years to life.

CNu said...

awww..., michelle malkin's trying to humanize herself. isn't that special.

Anonymous said...


@ cnulan

"awww..., michelle malkin's trying to humanize herself. isn't that special."

As usual you have nothing worthwhile to contribute.

It's stuff like this, the whiny-ass tendency, that frankly bores me so much.

Anonymous said...


Obama's speech


First reading: not impressed.

Anonymous said...

Uh, Dave? I see your distinction as kind of a fine point. You act as if "the government just let men suffer and die of an entirely curable disease, but since they didn't inject them, big whoop and why are all these angry negroes making a fuss?".

Why more angry at the guy who got the essence of the crime right, and not the criminal who did it?

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Because the truth matters, oh courageous anonymous stranger.

Thembi Ford said...

I think that the key point here is that we don't NEED The Tuskegee experiments to have consisted of injecting blacks with syphillis. However that misconception makes it much easier to argue the existence of a black genocide, there are plenty of other legitimate facts that can be used to make that argument. The injection thing is a colorful one, but its not like lynching is so humane that now theres no such thing as institutionalized racism.

bklyn6 said...

Medical Scholar Harriet Washington is the author of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present (Paperback). She talks about the Tuskegee Experiment and the "misconceptions floating about." I haven't read the book (cause it'll piss me off, for sure), but I've listened to her on Democrcy Now" (there's a transcript, as well) and Science Friday". She recently received a National Book Critics award for the book. It sheds light on why we are so distrustful of the medical community.

I have read "I Heard It Through the Grapevine: Rumor in African-American Culture." I don't remember what it said about the Tuskegee Experiment, though. But, it mentions other urban legends that black folks cling too, like the one about the soft drink that was known to cause sterility in African American men. Now, how this would only cause sterility in them, and not ALL men, is a curiosity.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Well done, Bklyn6, bringing other cultural rumors into the mix. One that I remember from the '80s was the rumor that the govt. put chemicals in Kentucky Fried Chicken to make black people more susceptible to drug addiction.

bklyn6 said...

^UBM, "Grapevine" also mentions the TROOP clothing line rumor. I remember hearing that it was a line owned by the Klan and that the letters were an acronym for "The Robes of Oppressed People."

Thembi Ford said...

The letters KKK can be found on boxes of Marlboro cigarettes (undoubtedly planted by Newport).

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Hee-hee...

bklyn6 said...

One of my pet peeves is receiving emails that just wreak of urban legend nonsense. Why don't some people have the good sense to question stuff, google it, visit

I get these missing persons emails that just seem fishy, so I look them up. Rumor!

Got this "Maya Angelou" poem once. I'm no Angelou scholar, but I'm thinking, "She didn't write this!" Nope. She didn't.

I mean, if I'm receiving this crap electronically, what's so hard about checking for accuracy before forwarding it to everyone and their mother?

DeAngelo Starnes said...

bklyn6, I thought about Harriet Washington's book when I read the post. Her interview on Democracy Now! suggests that the Tuskegee Experiment was just one of many medical experiments with Black people as the guinea pigs.

As Barack said, it's that part of American history that causes a Rev. Wright to speak from the pulpit with the anger that he has. Now, of course, the brotha would've benefited from reading the book.

Anonymous said...

Gotta agree with some of the posters - injecting as opposed to failing to heal is a fine distinction at best given the medical oath. The point is that it was without the knowledge of the participants. You could have achieved the same thing with a placebo and at least an attempt at credibility.

But David, the CIA and Lumumba, US support of apartheid South Africa, CointelPro, planning to make Castro's beard fall out, federally mandated redlining -- you gotta admit that the true shit is equally as fucked up as the myths.

Anonymous said...


@ eeaster

"you gotta admit that the true shit is equally as fucked up as the myths"

How about the early nuclear tests?

The one where they put a couple thousand men right in the blast zone of a nuclear weapon test with no protective gear.

November 1951 nuclear test at Nevada Test Site

bklyn6 said...

Now, of course, the brotha would've benefited from reading the book.

Word, DeAngelo Starnes.

Didn't Spike Lee riff on Tommy Hilfiger in "Bamboozled"? I vaguely recall that it was alleged that Hilfiger said he didn't want black folks wearing his designer clothing. Sorta like the urban legend about Liz Claiborne who was rumored to have said that she didn't design clothing for African American woman. Supposedly, the rumor got started on Oprah.* Oprah, happened to be wearing Claiborne's designs, but after the commercial break she came back wearing a robe.

*The incident never happened.

Undercover Black Man said...

... injecting as opposed to failing to heal is a fine distinction at best...

It must not be too fine a distinction, Eric, because many black folks grasp tightly to the bullshit version. Evidently some people prefer to believe that the U.S. government infected black citizens with disease.

Jeremiah Wright is one of them.

Let’s be real. The inability to distinguish between truth and myth calls into question not just one’s political judgement... but one’s basic intelligence.

Undercover Black Man said...

Also, Eric, to get totally real... it’s not like there was a shortage of black men with syphilis in the 1930s.

To this day, black Americans get syphilis at six times the rate of whites.

Black Americans get gonorrhea at 18 times the rate of whites.

In 2006, 43 percent of all cases of syphilis reported to the Centers for Disease Control were among black folks. (source)

This indicates, to me, that everyone who gets roused to anger by the lie that doctors “infected African-American men with syphilis” need to focus that energy on issues of behavior – of personal irresponsibility – that lead to this wild disproportion of venereal disease.

CEO said...

now what I am going to say is why I understand where you are coming from...but in reality does it really matter whether these men were injected...or was still a lie...because they told the men that they were going to fix their problems but instead they were not doing anything...right or wrong...

and I am going to tell you this...unless you are really in the you or we really know that some of these men were never injected with the disease anyway...dude the government was really jacked up...think about our first drug czar and why marijuana is illegal...ever thought about the statement he can you trust that these people saying that it never happened...I can't

and when it boils down to it...we have seen so much evidence against the government for years of things they have can't blame wright or farrakhan for any of their statement. Blacks were always treated as second hand citizens so who knows. I know I don't and I aint even going to harp on it.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ you or we really know that some of these men were never injected with the disease anyway...

Do the facts matter to you or not, gioperation? Or do you just take comfort in believing any lie, accusation or fable that supports your view of black people as victims?

If the black rate of syphilis today is six times the white, we can assume that the same was true 75 years ago. Which means: No need to inject black men with disease... they were doing a bang-up job of contracting VD their own selves.

Malcolm said...

FYI: Someone has posted longer clips that put two of his statements in context. You may still not agree with what he is saying, but in context it changes the story in a major way.

Anonymous said...

This is also BS. These men unfortunately were uneducated with many having NEVER seen a doctor before. If that's the case, how did these doctors just coincidentally/conveniently find and diagnose 400 black men with syphilis?

Just too far-fetched for me; especially under the circumstances.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Educate yourself, goodness gracious. Educate yourself.

Anonymous said...




Anonymous said...

CORRECTION: "have not done"...SORRY.

Unknown said...

The I55 Corridor near SouthEast Missouri is one of the worst areas in the country for Syphilis infection, worse than the Inner Cities.

Recently, I worked in a Hospital near there, where a baby born to a Syphilitic mother was born with its skin falling off. With free SDT clinics in EVERY COUNTY there is not excuse.

I was deliberatly exposed to Syph by a man who knew he had been diagnosed. This guy was Lativan, his name is Ilmars. This was more than thrty years ago when I lived in Toronto.

I was treated, but blood tests show no trace, so they say I was never actually infected.

The ethics of Medicine are contantly being called into question. It's shameful that anyone is ever considered expendable for any purpose. It does happen and with again with the poulation bomb about to go off.

Unknown said...

Very informative post. I was horrified by the allegations made on the O'Reilly Factor, especially when it went unchallenged by Bill. Thank you for clearing this up for me. I hate when people try and re-write history. The fact that you had posted the truth here makes you a patriot.

Anonymous said...

Ok so they misstaTed the actuall account of an event that happen over a century ago.

Does that make it less of an evil?

Why don't you shoot them for doing so? And while you're at it make sure you line Hillary Clinton up in front.

Anonymous said...

I have not read every post, and am in no way trying to diminish this atrocity done by white members of the US government all the way up to the surgeon general, but does anyone know where this experiment got its name? There were many black doctors and nurses that helped along with this experiment. Tuskegee University donated facilities for the experiment. I am not tying to downplay the US governments hand in this and how disgustiong this was, but knowing the truth is far better than spouting out ridiculous claims.

Anonymous said...

The Tuskegee experiment is beyond reproach. It wasnt bad enough that they didnt inform the men of their condition.

The government prevented all doctors living in the county from treating venerial diseases for the express purpose of spreading the disease whether or not they infected the men is trivial.

And i would say that the present numbers are a reflection of the combination of the work of the Tuskegee experiments contributing to the black populations mistrust of the medical community.

Anonymous said...

Very good post. It's sad that this urban legend has become so believed in the black community. It's a shame that people with a racist agenda seek to continue the myth to advance their own misguided ideology.

The tuskegee experiment was a breakdown in medical ethics but it was not an example of racism in America.

The men were chosen because they already had Stage 3 Syphilis and doctors initially believed (correctly) that contemporary treatments were doing more harm than good.

Few people realise that at the time, the black community suffered from syphilis at an incredibly higher rate than the white community.

As of 2007, rates of syphilis infection among African-Americans remain much higher than rates among white americans – six times higher for African-American men and 13 times higher for African-American women.

Anonymous said...

I have to wonder about the agenda of this article - is it to excuse the acts of a racist, murderous government? Will you next tell me how the native Americans really wanted to give up their land, how Japanese Americans actually were happier in concentration camps during WW2, that slaves were actually volunteers? Does the law make this huge a distinction between a crime and the conspiracy to commit the same crime? I am all for historical truth - but what does this prove? The end result is that our lives were still worthless to them.

Anonymous said...

Just because there is no evidence that they were intentionally infected, doesn't mean it didn't happen. I believe that they did intentionally infect those black american citizens. Based on their history alone. And it will only get worse until every single american knows the true history of this great country and it's evil leaders. Also if you do your research, the government did create hiv for Black americans....

Undercover Black Man said...

Just because there is no evidence that they were intentionally infected, doesn't mean it didn't happen. I believe that they did intentionally infect those black american citizens.

That's idiotic.

Anonymous said...

@ undercoverblackman

after reading every post, i have decided that the ongoing debate of the facts is healthy, but misdirecting. the tone of your posts specifically sound and look like you consider the facts that have been brought to light concrete and that there are no holes in the story. you make me feel like your the same as those african [no such thing as an african american] institutions that were just following orders. my point is this, if you weren't there, you can't say what did or did not occur, no matter how much 'evidence' is brought to light

Plane Ideas said...

David has no defintive proof what the US Goverment did or did not do to Black folks during this era...Of course my post will now make me subject to being called and idiot by David..of course I do not care it is one of the wonderful results of free speech..the right to an opinion..

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Idiot.

saint james said...

I have heard this misinformation recited repeatedly over the years. I learned in Jr High School that the government denied treatment to Black men infected with syphillis. Many Black folk believe "if they denied treatment they probably gave them syphillis too." The recitation of misinformation by us makes us seem unread and poorly informed. sigh

Wild Safari said...

Yes, people should learn the facts of the experiment so they can intelligently speak on it, however the government DID knowingly infect people with syphilis: the wives and girlfriends of those infected men and the children born to their unions. Please reinvestigate.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the posting above. You need to research more... especially in the North Carolna region. Duke University was involved in admininstering sulfur drugs to the men and their offsprings.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Do you mean "sulfa drugs"?