Tuskegee's Truths

Rethinking the Tuskegee Syphilis Study

Edited by Susan M. Reverby

Foreword by James H. Jones

664 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 17 illus., 14 tables, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4852-4
    Published: July 2000
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-0872-3
    Published: December 2012
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-7232-6
    Published: December 2012

Studies in Social Medicine

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Between 1932 and 1972, approximately six hundred African American men in Alabama served as unwitting guinea pigs in what is now considered one of the worst examples of arrogance, racism, and duplicity in American medical research--the Tuskegee syphilis study. Told they were being treated for "bad blood," the nearly four hundred men with late-stage syphilis and two hundred disease-free men who served as controls were kept away from appropriate treatment and plied instead with placebos, nursing visits, and the promise of decent burials. Despite the publication of more than a dozen reports in respected medical and public health journals, the study continued for forty years, until extensive media coverage finally brought the experiment to wider public knowledge and forced its end.

This edited volume gathers articles, contemporary newspaper accounts, selections from reports and letters, reconsiderations of the study by many of its principal actors, and works of fiction, drama, and poetry to tell the Tuskegee story as never before. Together, these pieces illuminate the ethical issues at play from a remarkable breadth of perspectives and offer an unparalleled look at how the study has been understood over time.

About the Author

Susan M. Reverby is professor of women's studies at Wellesley College. She is author of the prize-winning Ordered to Care: The Dilemma of American Nursing.
For more information about Susan M. Reverby, visit the Author Page.


"Tuskegee's Truths revisits the infamous Tuskegee study and explores its contemporary meanings and relevance for American society. . . . The book succeeds admirably. Its comprehensive scope makes it an invaluable reference tool. Its sharp focus on race will attract the attention of scholars of race as well as historians and ethicists concerned with racism in medicine and medical research."--New England Journal of Medicine

"Reverby has done an excellent job of editing the work of numerous contributors to compile the book in a well-organized and readable style."--Choice

"I thought I had a good grasp of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study before reading Tuskegee's Truths. . . . Reverby's book has humbled me. . . . A short review like this cannot begin to recount the many perspectives included in [this book]."--Journal of the History of Medicine

"Reverby insures that the person using this book will understand the Tuskegee syphilis study as a contemporary history."--Journal of American History

"Reverby has taken some of the heavy lifting out of the task of studying Tuskegee. Tuskegee's Truths is a compendium of diverse materials that shed different kinds of light on the notorious research project. . . . A sourcebook for teachers, a useful reference for scholarship, and a welcome addition to the library of other readers who wish to explore the disquieting history of the Tuskegee Study."--Bulletin of the History of Medicine

"This book comes well recommended to all those involved in the teaching of ethics and the healing arts."--Journal of Religion and Health

Multimedia & Links

Read Reverby's groundbreaking Journal of Policy History article, "'Normal Exposure' and Inoculation Syphilis: A PHS 'Tuskegee' Doctor in Guatemala, 1946-48," at her Wellesley faculty page.

See our coverage of the diplomatic and media responses to the article here and here.