These Archival Photos Show The Faces Of The Tuskegee Experiment

Epidemiologists have long known that African-Americans are at a higher risk than whites for diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and certain other diseases and chronic conditions. Yet they’re less likely to seek medical care.

What explains the disparity? Beyond genetics, scientists have pointed to stress, socioeconomic status, and lack of access to health care.

And then there’s the possibility that African-Americans are less trusting of physicians than their white counterparts — a notion that’s been substantiated in social science research as well as in popular media. It even was referenced in a recent episode of the ABC sitcom “Blackish.”

“There’s a long tradition of black folks having an aversion to doctors and health care,” Dre, the character portrayed by actor Anthony Anderson, says in the episode that aired Oct. 7, “and to be fair, deservedly so, from overcrowded hospitals where black patients were ignored by disinterested doctors to the Tuskegee experiment where white doctors took way too much interest in black patients, treating them like lab rats.”

Anderson’s character was talking about the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, in which government-appointed doctors studied the progression of the disease in about 400 black men without the men’s informed consent and then withheld treatment while the men went blind or insane — with some unknowingly passing the disease on to their loved ones. The experiment began in 1932 and continued through 1972.

The men who were victimized by the experiment have since died, but National Archives photos that offer a glimpse of their story are still with us:

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