Black folks’ concerns about COVID-19 vaccine are not unwarranted

by A. Peter Bailey

(— Those who believe that the concerns of numerous Black folks about the soon-to-be-available COVID-19 vaccine is unwarranted should check out the following observations and commentary about the American medical profession that are included in my book, “The Harlem Hospital Story: 100 Years of Struggle against Illness and White Supremacy.” 
Dr. W. Montague Cobb, who was a medical historian and Professor of Anatomy at Howard University and the first African American to earn a PhD in anthropology, has been quoted as saying “Negro patients in countless numbers served to advance the cause of medical science through their reactions to new or little tried therapeutic measures.  The use of the Negro patient for experimentation and the development of surgical procedures and techniques rests on a tradition that began with the advent of chattel slavery in America in 1619.”

In his book, “Sins of the Fathers: A Study of the American Slave Trade, 1441-1807,” James Pope-Hennessey, wrote that “Once the African captives were put ashore, the slave traders began earnestly selling moribund or ‘refuse’ Africans at public auctions to, among others, surgeons to be used for medical experimentation.” 

Henry Irving Tragle in his book, “The Southampton Slave Revolt: A Compilation of Source Materials,” wrote “…In the circulator of the South Carolina Medical School for that year (1831), I find this remarkable suggestion: ‘Some advantages of peculiar character are connected with this institution.  No place in the United States affords so great opportunities for the questions of medical knowledge, subjects being obtained among the colored population in sufficient numbers for every purpose and proper dissection carried without offending an individual….’  The suggestion was made by a medical student in South Carolina in a letter to a friend in New Jersey. 
According to William S. Drewry in his book, “The Southampton Insurrection,” the body of Nat Turner who was executed for leading an armed revolt against enslavers “was delivered to the doctors who skinned it and made grease of the flesh.  His skeleton was for many years the possession of Dr. Massenberg….”

Dr. Frances Cress Welsing once wrote that concerned and aware Black people were very disturbed “by repeated attempts to imply that African people are the source responsible for the origin of this new deadly virus (AIDS) and for its spread throughout the world….Aware Black people are knowledgeable about the long-standing Tuskegee syphilis experiments which were conducted for a period of 40 years (1932-1972) on unsuspecting Black men and their families….”

All of the above show clearly that concerns of numerous Black folks about the possibility of White supremacy treatment in the medical profession are not unwarranted. Therefore, we as Black folks, while taking advantage of advances in medical treatment must be on the alert for anything that reflects experimentation.


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