National Book Critics Circle Award Winner (Nonfiction)
PEN/Oakland Award Winner
BCALA Nonfiction Award Winner
Gustavus Meyers Award Winner
“This groundbreaking study documents that the infamous Tuskegee experiment, in which black syphilitic men were studied but not treated, was simply the most publicized in a long, and continuing, history of the American medical establishment using African Americans as unwitting or unwilling human guinea pigs . . . Washington is a great storyteller, and in addition to giving us an abundance of information on ‘scientific racism,’ the book, even at its most disturbing, is compulsively readable. It covers a wide range of topics—the history of hospitals not charging black patients so that, after death, their bodies could be used for anatomy classes; the exhaustive research done on black prisoners throughout the 20th century—and paints a powerful and disturbing portrait of medicine, race, sex, and the abuse of power.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Medical ethicist and journalist Washington details the abusive medical practices to which African Americans have been subjected.
“She begins her shocking history in the colonial period, when owners would hire out or sell slaves to physicians for use as guinea pigs in medical experiments. Into the 19th century, black cadavers were routinely exploited for profit by whites who shipped them to medical schools for dissection and to museums and traveling shows for casual public display. The most notorious case here may be the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, in which about 600 syphilitic men were left untreated by the U.S. Public Health Service so it could study the progression of the disease, but Washington asserts that it was the forerunner to a host of similar medical abuses . . . African American skepticism about the medical establishment and reluctance to participate in medical research is an unfortunate result. One of her goals in writing this book, aside from documenting a shameful past, is to convince them that they must participate actively in therapeutic medical research, especially in areas that most affect their community’s health, while remaining ever alert to possible abuses.
“Sweeping and powerful.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)