Experiment in Tuskegee

In the south we struggle with what to be proud of for we are passionate people who are identified with a dark past.  We hold love and anger and try to go forward with our eyes open/opened. Somewhere in there lies our hope for a better and more honest future.

Experiment in Tuskegee                                                                                  Van Potter


“Syphilis Victims in the U. S. Study Went Untreated for 40 Years”

New York Times, July 26, 1972


Jeremiah Jones

May 28, 1970


Doctor Jim,

Time after time,

I lie on your cold, white table,

and let you give me shots

for the bad blood you say I have.

Yet the tiredness rides my back

and I can’t work my land no more.

The chancre claws up

through the skin of my private place,

and the sores eat my face and hands,

and make my wife turn away.


Dr. Jim Willis

May 28, 1970 journal entry


This morning, I reflect on myself,

that 10-year-old boy hovering over a faceless fly

stunned and lying in a white saucer

on a tree stump in the back yard.

I de-wing the specimen and observe how it writhes, jerks,

pops up from the plate like a kernel in a hot skillet.

I note it takes thirty minutes for the insect to die.

Then I open the door of my office,

look through glass doors and down the corridor

at the dusty sharecroppers

sitting on benches, papering the walls,

waiting for my wonder treatment.

I turn, nod to my nurse,

and she says, “Next.”


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