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

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  5,563 ratings  ·  610 reviews
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 comprehensive history of medical experimentation on African Americans. Starting with the earliest encounters between black Americans
Hardcover, 501 pages
Published January 9th 2007 by Doubleday
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Start your review of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present
Jul 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Sep 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On the bright side, hell won't run out of special places. ...more
Mar 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Let's be clear, I will not be writing a full review of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present.

I simply doff my cap to the author, Harriet A. Washington, for this incredibly well-researched and detailed account of a horrific chapter in our history as a nation. And by a chapter, I mean something occurring for over 4o0-years.


Keeping my nonfiction reading on a roll here in 2021!!

Picking this one up on the recommen
Aug 17, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Gretchen Rubin
Gripping history, I couldn't put it down. ...more
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. Practi
I’ll be honest, I don’t think I can write a review for this book because it’ll make me ragey all over again. This is a very difficult book to read not only because of all the racism, bigotry and unethical exploitation of Black people for medical experimentation, but also for us to reconcile with the fact that many progresses in treatments that have been made over the years have been possible because of this exploitation. And that can be a hard pill to swallow.

But we all need to know this histor
Sep 03, 2010 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
Feb 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2015
This book is mandatory reading.
Isil Arican
Nov 28, 2016 rated it it was ok
I read this book with great anticipation and really liked the first few chapters. But my enthusiasm started to decline slowly as I progressed more in the book.
Overall it is a comprehensive collection of apartheid in medicine, however the medical interpretation errors and the obvious bias of the writer as she describes things get annoying after a while.

My first turn off was regarding the vaccinations examples. She claims that vaccines are tried on African Americans first, which might be true and
Nancy Oakes
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
Carolyn Fitzpatrick
Jul 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
52 Weeks of Women of Color
2020 PopSugar Challenge
~ "Read a book by or about a woman in STEM"

This book had me raging. Medical Apartheid is a detailed account of the atrocities that African Americans have faced at the hands of the medical profession and the scientific community. Most of us are familiar with the government funded Tuskegee Syphilis experiment but many do not realize how extensive and pervasive these egregious practices are currently. In today's world children of color are more lik
Aug 28, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Dec 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Traci at The Stacks
A hard read. Full of so much information. Not really enjoyable but beyond necessary. The detailed examination of racism in medicine and science is terrifying. It also exists in the shadows and this book gives the victims of these crimes a voice. I didn’t like reading this book but I’m glad I did and I’m incredibly grateful it exists.
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There was a whole lot of "holy shit" while reading this book. ...more
May 24, 2010 rated it liked it
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.
Sikivu Hutchinson
Aug 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A powerful indictment of how white supremacy and institutional racism shaped the regime of medical experimentation on black bodies
Mar 25, 2018 rated it did not like it
I really wanted to like this book. As an undergraduate, I did my own research into medical racism, so of course I was drawn to potentially learning more about the abhorrent medical experimentation on black Americans.

However, the author got so many medical facts downright wrong that I'm not sure I can trust the vast majority of the research described in here.
For example:
- p. 120-121: Washington describes how anthropologists determined the age and sex of skeletons unearthed from beneath the Medica
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 u

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
Mikesawin Sawin
Nov 10, 2008 rated it liked it
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.
Apr 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Excellent research. This book has definitely assisted me in becoming an intense critical thinker when it pertains to the field of medicine- posing inquiries, following rabbit holes until the answers are vivid. We don’t have to assume much. Things have been documented and stories have been told. Look. Listen.
McKenzie Andrews
Aug 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow- so many medical atrocities that I had no knowledge of prior to reading this book. I listened on audiobook which was hard given the heavy nature of the content. This book should be required reading for all medical professionals, and people more broadly.
Abida's Book Adventures
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved reading this book, such an eye opener!!
Anita Fajita Pita
A very important read for anyone looking to further their own knowledge on American history, and especially to educate ones self on the dark medical history and scientific progress built on the lives of African Americans. Very relevant and important.

I also want to add that this is a heavy read because of the material, but it isn't necessarily a morbid book. Simply reading the title tells you that this is a dark history, a.n unending parade of atrocities framed in a book titled 'Medical Apartheid
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: historic, medical
This book is a National Books' Critics' Circle award-winning examination of how African-Americans (and even some actual Africans') have been treated by the medical industry, and how so very many of them became guinea pigs in the name of medical research. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this book is written by a medical social worker as I am also, though Ms. Washington has since apparently gone on to bigger and better roles as a Medical ethicist. She writes in excruciating detail how ...more
Apr 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
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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

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40 likes · 17 comments
“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.” 10 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.” 4 likes
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