Examining Tuskegee

The Infamous Syphilis Study and Its Legacy

By Susan M. Reverby

416 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-0972-0
    Published: August 2013
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-9867-3
    Published: November 2009
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8495-4
    Published: November 2009

John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture

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Awards & distinctions

2011 James F. Sulzby Award, Alabama Historical Association

A 2010 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

2010 Arthur J. Viseltear Award, American Public Health Association, Medical Care Section

2010 Ralph Waldo Emerson Award, Phi Beta Kappa Society

The forty-year Tuskegee Syphilis Study, which took place in and around Tuskegee, Alabama, from the 1930s through the 1970s, has become a profound metaphor for medical racism, government malfeasance, and physician arrogance. Susan M. Reverby's Examining Tuskegee is a comprehensive analysis of the notorious study of untreated syphilis among African American men, who were told by U.S. Public Health Service doctors that they were being treated, not just watched, for their late-stage syphilis. With rigorous clarity, Reverby investigates the study and its aftermath from multiple perspectives and illuminates the reasons for its continued power and resonance in our collective memory.

About the Author

Susan M. Reverby is Marion Butler McLean Professor in the History of Ideas and Professor of Women's Studies at Wellesley College. She is editor of Tuskegee's Truths: Rethinking the Tuskegee Syphilis Study.
For more information about Susan M. Reverby, visit the Author Page.


"This in-depth and comprehensive approach, by exploring the aftermath of the Tuskegee Study, distinguishes it from other writings on this topic. . . . The best presentation, thus far, of how race, medicine and research have intersected as a consequence of this convoluted Tuskegee Syphilis Study."—The Journal of the National Medical Association

"A vitally important contribution to the literature surrounding the study. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice

"Reverby has constructed an essential historical framework of public health ethics. . . . [An] expansive yet detailed account. . . [A] magnificent contribution in examining [Tuskegee's] enduring hold on U.S. cultural life."—Health Affairs

"Reverby offers us a complete description as well as an excellent analysis of this scandalous episode in the history of biomedical research."—Social History of Medicine

"An essential historical framework of public health ethics."—Health Affairs

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.