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Tuskegee Commemorates Federal Apology for Syphilis Experiments

Tuskegee History Center

Tomorrow marks 20 years since President Bill Clinton formally apologized on behalf of the U.S. government for the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment.

The purpose of this study was to observe the natural progression of untreated syphilis in rural African-American men in Alabama. The study began in 1932 and lasted until 1972, after a whistleblower exposed information about the research to the press and prompted the government to shut down the program.

Fred Gray represented plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against the U.S. government, ultimately winning a settlement and medical treatment for the surviving members of the study. Gray says it is important to remember the official apology because of how the men were treated during the course of the experiment.

“They led them to believe they were entering into a healthcare program where they were being treated of whatever was wrong with them. The truth of the matter is, they never told them they had syphilis, they never treated them for syphilis, they were engaged in a health program without their informed consent.”

The Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center will be hosting an event tomorrow at 10 a.m. to remember the 20th anniversary of the apology as well as the founding of the center.

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