"Macon County is a natural laboratory; a ready-made situation. The rather low intelligence of the Negro population, depressed economic conditions, and the common promiscuous sex relations not only contribute to the spread of syphilis but the prevailing indifference with regard to treatment."
- Dr. Taliaferro Clark, Head of the Venereal Disease Division at USPHS (1932)
IMPOVERISHED AND ILLITERATE
Images taken from Tuskegee University Archives.
Located in Alabama's "Black Belt," the Macon County region was known for its poor African-American sharecroppers and "large negro population" ("Letter From" 1931). Furthermore, the region was largely rural; a study from 1932 shows that "227 out of every 1,000 blacks there were illiterate." (Jones 1981)
"While it is true that medical scientists already knew a great deal about the natural history of syphilis, he [Clark] saw merit in learning more- especially about the effects of the disease on blacks."
- James H. Jones, author of "Bad Blood:
The Tuskegee Syphilis Study" (1993)
This 1930 US Census displays a 82 percent black population in Macon County (United States Census 1930).
In creating the study, Clark had a "view of securing the cooperation of the Andrew Memorial Hospital of Tuskegee Institute," which provided a facility desirable for the study (Baker 1932).
"It is the desire of Surgeon General Cummings and Dr. Clark that this study should be made at [Tuskegee Institute's] hospital ... This would necessitate of-course, the use of the facilities of the hospital... They would furnish the necessary dressings, cotton, X-Ray films and the Neo-Salvarsan for any treatment given"
- Dr. Dibble, head of the John A. Andrew Memorial Hospital, in a letter to R. R. Moton, President of the Tuskegee Institute from 1915 to 1935 (1932)
This article, taken from "Paducah Sun", refers to "bad blood" as minor skin ailments, rather than syphilis symptoms (University of Kentucky Archives 1902).
In the rural South, the local term "bad blood" referred to a variety of symptoms ranging from syphilis to fatigue.
During the Tuskegee study, doctors told patients that they had "bad blood," not syphilis.
"They say they gonna treat us - they just said bad blood."
- Charles Pollard, patient in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study (1997)
Charlie Pollard, in an interview in the documentary "The Deadly Deception" (1993)