Jeremiah Wright’s Misrepresentation of the Tuskegee Study

Listening to the sound bites of Jeremiah Wright’s inflammatory sermons, we repeatedly hear his claim that blacks were given syphilis by the United States government. It is the prominent part of his justification for his claim that the government “invented” AIDS for the purpose of genocide against black people.

We also hear black ministers use the Tuskegee Study as validation of Wright’s claims in his sermons and a justification of their paranoia.

I was first introduced to information about this study many years ago, in fact just a few years after the study had ended and, somehow, Wright’s claim that black men were “given” syphilis just didn’t have the ring of truth to it. The study was taught as a classic example of how studies of medical treatment can go terribly wrong over the process of time and was part of the basis for new and more strigent criteria and guidelines for setting up studies in medical research.

The study was begun in the early 1930’s when the only treatment for syphilis were toxic heavy metals such as arsenic and less toxic silver salts. The study was set up to determine if treatment with these substances were, in fact, beneficial to the persons receiving the treament. Part of the study was a cohort of patients who were untreated versus a group who was treated with the standard treatments of the time.

The major problem with the study comes when penicillin became standard and accepted treatment for syphilis in 1947. The study didn’t end until 1972 and the untreated cohort remained untreated and uninformed about the availability of effective treatment.The study was conducted by the U. S. Public Health Service. See:


_the_Negro_Male”>Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male</a>.

The U.S. Public Health Service didn’t obtain informed consent and didn’t offer treatment when effective treatment became available … for about 25 years … which was reprehensible.

What the U.S. Public Health Service did not do, as Jeremiah Wright claims, was infect the persons in the study with syphilis.

While using the study as an example of how blacks may have been discriminated against by not being offered treatment when available, to state that the government infected the patients with syphilis is both disingenious and a lie.

The question has to asked, “Why would Reverend Jeremiah Wright with all his degrees and reported intelligence, at a minimum, distort the truth or, more accurately, simply outright lie about the study?”

What points is he trying to make with his fallacious claims?

I can only surmise that it suites his purpose, and the purpose of others like him, to promote a sense of fear and distrust among blacks of the government (run by rich white people) and white people in general. Is this part of Barack Obama’s “typical white person” stereotype.

Frankly, I’m surprised that no one else has pointed out this discrepancy in Wright’s statements since the true information is so readily available. Any physician or medical researcher should know that Jeremiah Wright just wasn’t being honest … and that says a lot about his character. I think it also says a lot about his ardent supporters, their honesty, integrity, judgment and thoroughness.

Tonight, I’ve heard a lot of black ministers step up in a news interview defending Jeremiah Wright claiming that Wright’s methods of preaching are typical of black ministers. I would hope that lying and distorting the truth isn’t “typical” for black ministers. Then they’re less ministers and more demagogues like Jim Baker and Jerry Swiggert.


6 Responses

  1. That quote is from Barack Obama on April 11, 2007 regarding the “nappy headed hos” comment by Don Imus. I have more info on

  2. A reply for “gasdocpol”:

    First of all, thanks for your comment.

    In response,
    1. Good. Everyone should be … that is, unless you agree with him.
    2. “Out of context” … That’s an apology (as in ‘explanation’) I keep hearing. In the era of the “sound bite” which maxes out at about 5 minutes, some major points are made in much less time than Jeremiah Wright took to make his “points” … “out of context”. Entire speeches … or sermons … with less substance have taken less time. Quite frankly, I get the impression that, in the world of “Black Liberation Theology”, his sound bites are very consistent as well as … “self contained”.
    3. “Obama was listening to the worthwhile things Wright had said.” That’s an assumption … that Wright had something worthwhile to say. And, that depends on what you consider worthwhile. Further more, I’m not to sure the baby didn’t dissolve in the bath water.
    4. I thought Jonah living in the whale was a good parable. If you’re referring to my opinion of Christianity, it’s high … but I do have, like Abraham Lincoln, a low opinion of some of it’s practitioners … sometimes. And, I’m not exactly sure how Black Liberation Theology fits into the scheme of things.
    5. “An axe to grind” … I firmly believe that Barack Obama is well suited to represent his constituency in south Chicago … just like Cynthia McKinney was suited for her constituency in Atlanta. When it comes to him being president of the United States, there isn’t a whetstone big enough. And no, Jeremiah Wright isn’t the best I can do … but it’s a place to start. I have been and will continue to do my homework. Jeremiah Wright may just be the tip of the iceberg. The one dollar bill says, “In God We Trust”. All other entities, including presidential candidates, should be subject to greater scrutiny. Don’t you agree?

  3. 1 I too was appauled by the sound bites played continuously on FOX

    2 The sound bites were taken out of context and gave the impressin that these were the only things Wright had said.

    3. Obama was paying attention to the worthwhile things Wright had said instead of throwing out the baby with the wash water.

    4. If all you knew about the Bible was things like Jonah living in the whale, you would have a low opinion of Christianity

    5. You have an axe to grind against Obama. Is linking him to Wright the best you can do?

  4. “And the notion that somehow it’s cute or amusing, or a useful diversion, I think, is something that all of us have to recognize is just not the case. We all have First Amendment rights. And I am a constitutional lawyer and strongly believe in free speech, but as a culture, we really have to do some soul-searching to think about what kind of toxic information are we feeding our kids,”

  5. The following is an additional good review of the Tuskegee Study:

    The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment —

    It’s shows the depth of the involvement of the government in the study, involving both blacks and whites … hardly a white conspiracy … but no less tragic and reprehensible.

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