Under the shadow of Tuskegee: African Americans and health care

Am J Public Health. 1997 Nov;87(11):1773-8. doi: 10.2105/ajph.87.11.1773.


The Tuskegee Syphilis Study continues to cast its long shadow on the contemporary relationship between African Americans and the biomedical community. Numerous reports have argued that the Tuskegee Syphilis Study is the most important reason why many African Americans distrust the institutions of medicine and public health. Such an interpretation neglects a critical historical point: the mistrust predated public revelations about the Tuskegee study. This paper places the syphilis study within a broader historical and social context to demonstrate that several factors have influenced--and continue to influence--African American's attitudes toward the biomedical community.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alabama
  • Biomedical Research
  • Black or African American / history
  • Black or African American / psychology*
  • Delivery of Health Care* / history
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Human Experimentation / history*
  • Humans
  • Patient Selection*
  • Prejudice*
  • Research Subjects
  • Syphilis / history*
  • Syphilis / therapy
  • Trust*
  • Value of Life