6. The Tuskegee Study (1930s-1972)

In the 1930s the U. S. Public Health Service began studying the effects of syphilis on African-American men. Most of the work took place in Macon County, Alabama, in and around the county seat of Tuskegee. The men were given periodic medical examinations but were not treated. Medical and professional journals published findings periodically throughout the study. It was not kept secret.

The costs of the study in the lives, and deaths, of participants, and the effects on their families and communities are incalculable. And the study left a legacy among African Americans of mistrust for the government.

Throughout the study, the Public Health Service took photographs for its files. The images survive uncaptioned. Nurse Rivers, who was held in high regard by the participants, is the only person identified in the photographs.


Tuskegee Study Photographs from the Records of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Click images for larger view.