Honors College Theses




History (B.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Jonathan Bryant


The Tuskegee Syphilis Study was a non-therapeutic medical study on the effects of untreated syphilis on African American men. From 1932-1972 the Public Health Service of the United States, with the aid of various local doctors, conducted the study on 400 black men of Macon County in Tuskegee, Alabama. The black subjects of the study were not aware that treatment would be withheld nor the purpose of their examination. The legacy of the study has led to discussions on the influence of white authority in medicine and the use of black bodies for intellectual advancement. This thesis will explore the influence of experiments like Tuskegee and their correlation to medical distrust among African Americans, the medical myth of racial difference that led to the creation and maintenance of the Tuskegee study, and class dynamics that influenced the formation and preservation of the study.

Thesis Summary

This thesis will explore two points in relation to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. The first is the relation of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study with the medical distrust commonly found among African Americans. The second is an examination of the beliefs of racial difference that influenced the procedures and protocols of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Lastly, an examination of the class dynamics that influenced the preservation of the study will occur as well.