Diversity and Democracy

A Descendant's Personal Reflection

As a Tuskegee, Alabama, native who was born in the John A. Andrew Memorial Hospital, where the United States Public Health Service Syphilis Study took place, and as a descendant with several relatives who were part of this horrific study, I have been appointed to serve as a visiting scholar at Tuskegee University’s National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care (NCBRH). I also serve as a board member of the Voices for Our Fathers Legacy Foundation (VOFLF) and chair of VOFLF’s scholarship committee. At NCBRH and VOFLF, we want to cast out the hurt of shame and remember with a loving heart the 623 men who were part of the deceitful and unethical study.

For the descendants, these men were our fathers, uncles, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers—and husbands to mothers, aunts, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers. They were family members, neighbors, friends, and hardworking citizens of Macon County, Alabama, and surrounding communities.

On April 9, 2018, a community day of healing in Tuskegee concluded with VOFLF’s First Annual Scholarship Banquet. To date, VOFLF has awarded ten scholarships to descendants of the men subjected to the study: six to students enrolled at Tuskegee University, two at Georgia State University, one at Indiana University, and one at Winston-Salem State University. Scholarships are available to descendants enrolled in two-year and four-year colleges as well as graduate and doctoral programs. We are rising to a new level of purpose to benefit the young generation of descendants of these men, who were so poorly treated. These descendants are students and scholars, some of whom aspire to serve in the bioethics and health sciences fields.

Our goal is to provide a portion of scholarship funds to these descendants, with the dream of lifting up 623 new voices in the fields of bioethics and health sciences, expanding the ethics of care and creating a new tapestry of hope, healing, and trust.

Betty Neal Crutcher is Presidential Spouse and Cross-Cultural Mentor at the University of Richmond, and Visiting Scholar at Tuskegee University National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care (NCBRH).

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