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Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present

4.20  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,969 Ratings  ·  157 Reviews
National Book Critics Circle Award Winner (Nonfiction)
PEN/Oakland Award Winner
BCALA Nonfiction Award Winner
Gustavus Meyers Award Winner


From the era of slavery to the present day, the first full history of black America’s shocking mistreatment as unwilling and unwitting experimental subjects at the hands of the medical establishment.

Medical Apartheid is the first and only
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Paperback, 528 pages
Published January 8th 2008 by Anchor (first published 2007)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Bill
Aug 23, 2008 Bill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is incredibly hard to read in that it's so harrowing sometimes your stomach just turns as you turn the pages. However, it is masterfully written, immensely researched, and should be mandatory reading for, probably, the entire planet.
Miss Fabularian
May 03, 2010 Miss Fabularian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This. Book. Is. Explosive.

I found this book about a year ago in the huge Barnes and Noble in Union Square. It was somewhere on the bottom shelf in the African American section. The fact that I, even if accidentally, came across this book shows my dedication to finding a good book. The title is striking, and as knowledgable as I am about Black History, the assertions laid out in this book shocked me.

Harriet Washington has written an extensively researched book that rebuts the negative assumptio
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Laura
Aug 17, 2011 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: Reading Group
Washington is a former ethics fellow at Harvard Medical School. She catalogs a shameful, centuries long tradition in American medicine of using African Americans in medical experiments. I knew vaguely that had happened, and happened in living memory, but she provides details. Gory, gory details.

I’m glad I read this book, but I wish it had had the benefit of a hard edit. Stephen King said to authors that you have to kill your babies, and I often felt like Washington couldn’t bear to do that. The
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Shelley
Sep 05, 2010 Shelley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is very rare that I give a book 5 stars but this one earned it. This was a deeply disturbing and chilling book. Normally I do not read this type of book because I do not have time to invest in it but I took time this time. It was well researched and presented an awful picture of how so many people were injured and killed in the name of science and in order to justify medical testing and experimentation. I have studied this topic in the past in regards to early settlers in the deep south, prim ...more
Aubrey
In 1915, Dr. Harry J. Haiselden heralded the first wave of U.S. eugenics when he gained fame and wealth by exploiting the evil legacy of the black mother...On November 12, 1915, he announced to newspapers that he allowed the ailing but viable newborn of his patient Anna Bollinger to die in Chicago's German-American Hospital because he would have gone through life as defective. Between 1915 and 1918, Haiselden killed five other babies, drawing fawning attention from the press each time. Practici
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Nancy Oakes
Feb 23, 2009 Nancy Oakes rated it really liked it
In this book, the author has compiled and analyzed a vast amount of research to make the case that racist practices toward African-American people from slavery onward, in the name of science and medicine, have created an atmosphere of distrust among African-Americans toward the medical profession. As a result of this distrust, and often fear, this group of people may not be getting proper medical care when necessary.

I won't go into a major discussion here, but I thought the author did a fine jo
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Carolyn Fitzpatrick
Jul 27, 2011 Carolyn Fitzpatrick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sociology, history
This was the most disturbing history book that I've read in a looong time. First it discusses the horrible medical experiments conducted on slaves in antebellum days, some of which make those Nazi experiments look like nothing at all. Then it moves into the experiments and graverobbing that free African Americans were more vulnerable to, due to poverty and racism. Then it wraps up with the examples of racist medical practices in the modern day plus medical abuses practiced in prisons, which are ...more
Imbyr Unfortunately
This book is mandatory reading.
Dave
Washington's book is more encyclopedic than argumentative, though she makes overtures in both directions. Medical Apartheid is an exhaustive look at how prejudice has played out in the sphere of medicine and healing, exclusively focusing on Western medicine's dark interaction with the subjected and forgotten enslaved and poor. She also attempts to establish causation between a current African American iatrophobia (fear of medicine) and the many abuses of African Americans at the hands of America ...more
Sikivu Hutchinson
A powerful indictment of how white supremacy and institutional racism shaped the regime of medical experimentation on black bodies
Elspeth
Apr 20, 2015 Elspeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
This is a disturbing book. It’s also excellent. The author, Harriet Washington, documents a long and shameful history of medical research and experimentation on African Americans in the United States (often against the will and/or knowledge of the test subjects), from slavery to the present day. Washington argues that medical experimentation on blacks is not an aberration that peaked during the infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiments, but rather has been so common in U.S. history that blacks are ...more
Spicy T AKA Mr. Tea
A wonderfully written yet horrifying history of the use of black bodies for medical experimentation from slavery to now. Washington does a great job of explaining and clarifying experiments we've heard about like the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and the not so well known like the injection of plutonium into non-consenting African Americans to see what would happen. I appreciated and disliked the objectivity she exuded with her writing voice. On the one hand, I thought she would be more passionat ...more
Emmett
Mar 09, 2015 Emmett rated it really liked it
Shelves:
Now, I consider myself only SORT of dumb, and there have been some words which I did not know what they meant and there have been some words that I have never, ever seen, and look Lewis Carroll-y at first glance. But, Harriet Washington made me feel dumber than hell with her prodigious use of obscure words, both large and small.

Ironically, multiple times throughout the book she criticizes (rightly, of course) the use of high medical jargon that no non-medical expert could ever hope to decipher
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Michelle Wright
Sep 14, 2011 Michelle Wright rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Medical Apartheid is a must read for anyone interested in social justice issues.The facts are disturbing but well documented.At times this book made me cry. There are no words to express some of the horrors that 'black ppl' have gone through in this country and around the world. If you would like to read true un-sugar coated history then this is the book for you.It is so amazing how some (so called) human beings had so much hate for other human beings that they justified such horrible events suc ...more
Shanae
This took forever for me to read (I started in March - oh wow!!). It took forever to finish this book and not because it was incredibly hard for me to read, but because I found it a little redundant. The book is well written and Harriet A. Washington is very clear throughout it. I really appreciated that and I feel that I have learned a lot from Medical Apartheid. I recommend Medical Apartheid to those who are interested in learning more about the history of medical experimentation.
Charlene Lewis- Estornell
Excellent book! This author presents a plethora of in depth research finding that point to overt, and at times unintended, systematic racism that has informed decision making in medicine. Extremely thorough review of how Blacks were used for medical experimentation from the time they were slaves until now. Having studied and read about inequality, I thought I would not find much that was new in this book. Wow, was I wrong. Washington put together and strong case, using a novel lens, that shined ...more
Ashley
What to make of this book? It's so important and yet it left me wanting more. "Medical Apartheid" catalogs the many, many racial injustices perpetrated in the name of medical advancement. Washington writes passionately and ends with a strong call for better, more just policies regarding medical experimentation and truly informed consent. She also emphasizes that, all too often, "Tuskegee" is used to explain all African American mistrust of the medical system. Washington argues that the Tuskegee ...more
Caroline
This is a hard book to mull through. Books like this leave me smoldering and bitter for weeks on end, but I need to know it. I don't know how the Dr Washington managed to compose this book, reading all these terrible notes these sick disgusting white 'doctors' left behind and not have anger boiling under the surface of this book. I can't stop thinking, Black people have really contributed the most in this country but we get no recognition no respect.

There are several parts of this book that I h
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Melissa Dally
Oct 15, 2013 Melissa Dally rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: borrowed
I want to cuss A LOT about the information I gained reading this. I mean...you think to yourself you know what the lowest, basest, most depraved human beings are capable of...and then you read this and see for yourself you had NO IDEA.

To find out that the Tuskegee Syphilis experiment patients not only weren't offered the antibiotics that would have cured them when they became available, but were put on lists that were sent to the clinics to deny these men the lifesaving treatment??? WHAT THE FUC
...more
Rea Peck
Jun 30, 2012 Rea Peck rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a good book, though very hard to read. It's disgusting and devastating, but that is why it's a good book. I read this for my Women's History course and I'm glad I did. It's important to realize how many things have been built on the backs of POC. Reading this certainly made me check my privilege as a white person. Again, this book is very important and realizing that these things happened is even more important. It may have hurt me as a white person, but it must be worse for a POC who s ...more
Mikesawin Sawin
This book really opened my eyes, but it was incredibly wordy and not well written in parts. I was amazed by the details and research, but a little judicious editing would have helped more people get excited about this important work.

As it stands, this is a laborious, over-written book that has an essential message that is lost in its own heft.
Kate
Jan 23, 2008 Kate rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medical
The author clearly lacks a medical background. Her misunderstanding of medical practice adds to the sensationalism with which she portrays historical events. The book would have been enhanced considerably had she partnered with a physician in writing it.
Kendra
Dec 30, 2015 Kendra rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really learned a lot from this book, and thought that it was hugely eye-opening. The history of medical experimentation on Black Americans is rife with horrifying stories and is unfortunately not over. I recommend most of this book.

However, the chapter on medical sterilization and contraceptives contains mischaracterizations of several long-term birth control options, including IUDs and Depo-Provera. Testing without informed consent is not acceptable, and both birth control methods were tested
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Vannessa Anderson
From the book

Dr. James Marion Sims invented eponymous gynecological instruments used for surgeries upon black female slaves in the 1840s. Each naked, unanesthetized slave woman had to be forcibly restrained by the other physicians though her shrieks of agony as Sims determinedly, sliced, then sutured her genitalia.

Many studies enrolled only or principally African Americas some included a smattering of Hispanics.

Tuskegee Syphilis Study in 1970s to 1996.

Jailing of poor black mothers who were unw
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virgodura
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/18/boo...

I haven't checked Washington's sources obviously but the NYT assessment seems accurate to me. This was a very disappointing read - tbh, books like this are why I'm hesitant to read those 'this year's feted nonfiction' lists. So many works of popular nonfiction have this awful journalistic tone (sensationalizing, decontextualizing) which makes me question everything that they say and unfortunately this is one of them.

In regards to the lack of context, for
...more
Patrick
Jun 03, 2010 Patrick rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, non-fiction
I have to admit, I didn't quite finish this book, but I got within 40 pages of the end.

In short, this book is an important catalog of medical experimentation and abuse of African Americans from slave times to the present era. Most Americans aren't aware of this history outside of the famous Tuskegee Syphilis study, but African Americans have been used as experimentation subjects from colonial times.

The book is full of information, but is often rather dry. If you're not looking for an exhaustive
...more
Thea
In her book, Margaret Washington details the long history of exploitation of Black americans by the U.S. medical industry, and of the systemic racism rampant in U.S. science. The book is extremely well-researched. Washington's primary objective is to document, though she also uses history to develop implications for policy and best practice. I think this book could be a good starting point for anyone wanting to work for racial justice in a medical field.

I want to add to my original post that Wa
...more
J.P.
Nov 24, 2015 J.P. rated it really liked it
Heartbreaking. That's what this book was to me & how it made me feel. It's a clear demonstration of the fact that racism is so much more than racial slurs & general mistreatment. It's so much deeper than that. It details the numerous ways throughout history that the consent of black bodies was nonexistent & despite many advances socially & medically, largely still is nonexistent. Whether it be to further racist notions via scientific racism or simply to get results in the name of ...more
Tiffany Jackson
Jul 03, 2016 Tiffany Jackson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very comprehensive and well-researched book. Though the book was very factual and highly detailed, it was quite haunting and disturbing. While reading this book I vacillated between feelings of sadness, anger, incredibility, disgust, and fear. Perhaps what was even more troubling than the experiments themselves was how many of the perpetrators received no punishment for their crimes. Some were even memorialized in histories as heroes instead of the monster they were. The story of Dr. Basson was ...more
Rock Angel
News broke that Dr. John C. Cutler was the man behind these experiments in the 1940's where 1300 Guatemalans undergone STD experiments conducted by the US. He was also the person behind the Tuskegee experiments, that dark chapter in medical research, which lasted from 1932 to 1972.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/31/wor...

http://blogs.voanews.com/breaking-new...
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Harriet Washington is the author of Deadly Monopolies: The Shocking Corporate Takeover of Life Itself and of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present, which won the 2007 National Book Critics’ Circle Award and was named one of the year’s Best Books by Publishers’ Weekly. She has won many other awards for her work on medici ...more
More about Harriet A. Washington...

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“Physicians, patients, and ethicists must also understand that acknowledging abuse and encouraging African Americans to participate in research are compatible goals. History and today's deplorable African American health profile tell us clearly that black Americans need both more research and more vigilance.” 8 likes
“Old measures of health not only have failed to improve significantly but have stayed the same: some have even worsened. Mainstream newspapers and magazines often report disease in an ethnocentric manner that shrouds its true cost among African Americans. For example, despite the heavy emphasis on genetic ailments among blacks, fewer than 0.5 percent of black deaths—that’s less than one death in two hundred—can be attributed to hereditary disorders such as sickle-cell anemia. A closer look at the troubling numbers reveals that blacks are dying not of exotic, incurable, poorly understood illnesses nor of genetic diseases that target only them, but rather from common ailments that are more often prevented and treated among whites than among blacks.” 2 likes
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