Tuskegee #626 Gil Scott Heron #5g #Covid-19
The lyrics of Gil Scott-Heron's 33-second song, "Tuskeegee #626", featured on the Bridges (1977) LP, detail and condemn the Tuskegee syphilis experiments.
Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male[a] was a clinical study conducted between 1932 and 1972 by the United States Public Health Service. The purpose of this study was to observe the natural history of untreated syphilis; the African American men in the study were only told they were receiving free health care from the Federal government of the United States.
Public Health Service started working on this study in 1932 in collaboration with Tuskegee University, a historically black college in Alabama. Investigators enrolled in the study a total of 600 impoverished, African American sharecroppers from Macon County, Alabama. Of these men, 399 had latent syphilis and 201 did not have the disease. The men were given free medical care, meals and free burial insurance for participating in the study. The men were told that the study was only going to last six months, but it actually lasted 40 years. After funding for treatment was lost, the study was continued without informing the men that they would never be treated. None of the men were told that they had the disease, and none were treated with penicillin even after the antibiotic was proven to successfully treat syphilis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the men were told that they were being treated for "bad blood", a colloquialism that described various conditions such as syphilis, anemia and fatigue. "Bad blood"—specifically the collection of illnesses the term included—was a leading cause of death within the southern African American community.
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