Journal of Medical Humanities

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 155–171

“A Study in Nature”: The Tuskegee Experiments and the New South Plantation


DOI: 10.1007/s10912-009-9086-4

Cite this article as:
Rusert, B. J Med Humanit (2009) 30: 155. doi:10.1007/s10912-009-9086-4


This essay rethinks the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments in light of a long history of experimentation in plantation geographies of the U.S. South. Turning to late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century discourses of the New South and to Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute, this essay illuminates the extension of the laboratory life of the plantation into the twentieth century. The focus on personal hygiene at the Tuskegee Institute opened the door for alliances with public health initiatives early on, making the school’s student population as well as residents of surrounding counties subjects of intense hygienic surveillance well before the official start of the syphilis study.


Tuskegee Syphilis Study Race and medicine Booker T. Washington New South Public health Plantation science 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EnglishDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

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