The history of human experimentation is as old as the practice of medicine and in the modern era has always targeted disadvantaged, marginalised, institutionalised, stigmatised and vulnerable populations: prisoners, the condemned, orphans, the mentally ill, students, the poor, women, the disabled, children, peoples of colour, indigenous peoples and the enslaved.
Human subject research is evident wherever physicians, technicians, pharmaceutical companies (and others) are trialling new practices and implementing the latest diagnostic and therapeutic agents and procedures. And the American South in the days of slavery was no different – and for those looking for easy targets, black slave bodies were easy to come by.
Black bodies in the slave south
There is a rich and rapidly expanding scholarly literature examining the history of human subject research, including studies of the burgeoning bio-medical economy in the US in the 20th century. The Tuskegee experiment and other episodes of medical racism all feature prominently.… Read the rest