Great-granddaughter of Tuskegee Study victim gets vaccine

ATLANTA (AP) – Peggy Fitzpatrick Tatum recently spent two weeks trying to book an appointment to get the COVID-19 vaccine before eventually landing a date.

Tatum’s decision to get the vaccine may raise some eyebrows.

The 65-year-old retired federal employee is the great-granddaughter of one of hundreds of Black men in Macon County, Alabama, who were part of a controversial U.S. Public Health Service study on syphilis, commonly known as the Tuskegee Study or Tuskegee Experiment, which began in 1932 and lasted 40 years.

Blacks and Latinos have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus in terms of hospitalizations and deaths, according to health experts. Yet, they’re also receiving COVID-19 vaccinations at significantly lower rates than whites.

A big reason is lack of trust in medical research systems and the government. Some list the Tuskegee Experiment as reason for their hesitance.

According to a June 2020 Pew Research Center study, Black adults were more hesitant to trust medical scientists, embrace the use of experimental medical treatments and sign up for a potential vaccine to combat the disease.

“I do think they are using Tuskegee as an excuse, and it brings about fear and some anxiety for people,” said Tatum, who was raised in Tuskegee and now lives in metro Atlanta, in a recent interview with the AJC.

In a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll, 30% of Black respondents said the main reason they wouldn’t get the COVID vaccine is they distrust the health system. About 22% were concerned about side effects. Thirty-seven percent said they wanted to know more about the vaccines’ effectiveness.

Those facts are not lost on many in the community, as Black physicians, civic organizations and faith-based groups work to educate Black people about the vaccines.

“We’re at a different place from Tuskegee and also from other injustices and unethical medical behavior as far as research goes on human subjects,” said Dr. Lilly Immergluck, a professor at the Morehouse School of Medicine.

National and international guidelines have come from lessons learned in history.

“The protections that humans have in clinical research, to me, evolved from that situation (Tuskegee) along with some others.

“The way to be empowered is to get correct information,” she said. “We’re asking people to go to the people they trust in their communities, their circles, their networks and their health care providers.”

But she makes it clear that it’s not just vaccine hesitancy that could account for lower numbers.

“Is the root cause for the low number truly because people don’t want it or is it an access issue, a distribution issue or an inequality of distribution issue that needs to be addressed?”

Tatum is a board member of the Voices for Our Fathers Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit which was formed in 2014 to bring together Tuskegee Experiment descendants, provide scholarships, educate people about the study and tell the story of the men and their legacy.

Several group members have spoken out recently about the COVID vaccines and shared that they plan to take them. Their work has been in the spotlight more as people debate whether to take the vaccines.

Recently, Tatum and other descendants were part of a panel discussion on the syphilis study for a Chicago-based talk show when someone asked why, given their family histories, they would take the COVID vaccines.

She told them she was raised by her grandparents and when she was younger, whenever a vaccine became available whether for mumps or chickenpox, they would go down to the community clinic and get the shots.

“My grandmother never thought about any harm the vaccines would do to us, but she trusted in the Lord that it would do us all the good,” Tatum said.

Many times, people on social media harken back to the syphilis study.

Tatum doesn’t go as far as to encourage others to take the vaccines; she just wants them to educate themselves before making a decision.

“Back then, they didn’t understand what was going on,” she said. “Now you can ask questions. You can watch experts on the news 24/7.”

Tatum admits that she was hesitant at first, but the more she researched the vaccines, the more comfortable she felt.

She was only 2 years old when her great-grandfather died and can only piece together what he was like from other family members.

Papa Willie, as he was known, was a hardworking family man and sharecropper who lived right outside of Tuskegee in a community called Cotton Valley.

Lillie Tyson Head’s father, Freddie Lee Tyson, was also part of the study. Today, she advocates for people, particularly Blacks, to get vaccinated.

In Macon County, the men were not treated or informed they were in a study, said Head, 78, president of the Voices for Our Fathers Legacy Foundation and a Virginia resident. “We, on the other hand, in this time and age, we have more information at our disposal about the vaccine.

“I do hope my African American brothers and sisters will take the vaccine if they are able to do it,” Head told the AJC. The retired educator and her husband are scheduled to take their second COVID vaccine dose in March.

Head was not born when her father, then a sharecropper, was in the Tuskegee Study.

The family found out after her brother read about the study in the news.

“Of course, you can imagine it was quite a shock. There were so many questions and Daddy didn’t know the answers either.” He only knew that a lady would come around and draw blood.

Despite that legacy, Head is speaking out.

“This is an opportunity for us to ensure that our safety and our health is being addressed,” she said.


(Staff writer Eric Stirgus contributed to this article.)



-1932 – The “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male,” an experiment overseen by the federal government, begins. About 400 African American men in the Alabama community with syphilis are deliberately left untreated so doctors could study the disease.

-1940s – Some of the physicians involved in the Tuskegee experiment also take part in similar experiments in Guatemala, infecting prisoners and mental patients with syphilis.

-July 25, 1972 – An Associated Press article exposes the Tuskegee Experiment and a federal investigative panel is convened. The experiment is ended three months later.

-1974 – $10 million settlement is reached with the Tuskegee victims and their families and offers to provide medical benefits. The U.S. government orders new guidelines to protect human subjects in government-funded research projects.

-February 1997 – HBO film “Miss Evers’ Boys” telling the story of the study is released. (The experiment is also mentioned in a 1992 song by rap artist C.L. Smooth and in a 2015 episode of the sitcom “Blackish.”)

-May 16, 1997 – Then-President Bill Clinton holds White House ceremony apologizing to five Tuskegee Experiment survivors and announcing plans to create Tuskegee University’s National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care.

-January 2004 – The last Tuskegee study participant dies.

-2010 – Then-President Barack Obama apologizes for the syphilis experiments in Guatemala.

-December 2017 – Pew poll finds just 15% of Black people trust the government in Washington all or most of the time, lower than any other racial group.

-December 2020 – Pew poll finds just 42% of Black Americans said they would get a COVID-19 vaccine when made available.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Ambivalence Of Black History Month – Perspective From An African American Scientist

As I sit her on this cloudy Sunday morning in Georgia, I realized that it was the last day of Black History Month. This annual celebration can be traced to the son of former slaves, Carter G. Woodson. According to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) website, “In 1926, Dr. Woodson initiated the celebration of Negro History Week, which corresponded with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.” The celebration transformed to an entire February celebration in 1976. A weekend conversation with my wife sparked reflections on the “ambivalence” of Black History Month. I’ll explain.

Black History Month is absolutely appropriate, necessary, and welcomed. It allows for celebration, recognition, and framing of contributions of Black people in the United States. Some people raise questions about the need for the celebration or somehow perceive it as a threat to them. It’s not. I challenge the people raising questions about Black History Month to reflect on their history classes in school. An honest assessment will likely reveal very truncated narratives on the contributions of Black people. From my experience, it was a heavy dose of slavery, the Civil War, a little about desegregation, and Martin Luther King. Martin Luther King, whom I share membership in Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity with, was indeed a great man and U.S. icon, but he is not the answer to every Black History Month question or defense.

This extreme under-sampling” of Black contributions to American history became more poignant to me as I learned of my election this month to the National Academy of Engineering, which has only 2355 U.S. members and is one of the highest honors that can be bestowed on a scientist or engineer. In the moment that I was notified, I said a mental “thank you” to Dr. George Washington Carver and Dr. Warren Washington. Dr. George Washington Carver (1864-1943) was an extraordinary scientist at Tuskegee Institute (now University). I never met him but read so many books about him and the things he was able to do with peanuts. As a child, there were not many (likely any) examples of Black scientists in my radius of influence. Dr. Warren Washington is a pioneering climate scientist and recipient of the Nation Medal of Science. He invited me to visit with him at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) when I was a fledgling graduate student. That experience changed my life and shaped who I am as a scientist today. Part of my success is on the shoulders of these two mentors.


Though I have no psychic powers, I am guessing that a significant portion of readers did not learn about either of these men in school. I bet many people did not learn about the contributions of Fannie Lou Hamer, Shirley Chisholm, Charles Drew, or Langston Hughes. I do not recall any lessons in my history classes about the murder of Emmett Till, the Charlotte Sit-Ins, or the Niagara movement. The last two paragraphs (and more) are why Black History Month is absolutely needed.

Ok, Dr. Shepherd, so why did you use the word “ambivalence” in the title of your article? The word ambivalence, according to online Cambridge Dictionary, is defined as, “the state of having two opposing feelings at the same time, or being uncertain about how you feel.” My ambivalence comes because of the finiteness of the end of the shortest month on the calendar. After a month of social media posts, advertisements, and celebratory activities, these contributions fade back into the “spare closets or kitchen drawers” of the pulse of life for many people. The steady flow from the faucet becomes a drip. Candidly, we need a steady stream. Let’s supplement Black History Month projects in K-12 school with sustained and augmented curricula that better reflects all of our contributions. Let’s provide everyone with fair and equitable resources and voting rights in every month. Let’s not just name bridges and roads after Civil Rights icons, let’s truly honor them with meaningful actions toward racial justice.

For me, it comes down to a typed letter that I received from a 5th grader in Illinois this month. At one point in the letter, the boy said, “We are celebrating Black History Month….I wanted to write to you. Dr. Marshall Shepherd is someone I look up to.” Like me to Dr. Carver, he has never met me, but he is watching. I don’t know his race, background, or interest. I do know he’s watching just as someone is watching Vice President Kamala Harris, Attorney Benjamin Crump (a friend and Florida State University classmate), or Lebron James. Black History Month matters.

UnityPoint HealthTrinity announces Medicine in the Barbershop and Fitness


UnityPoint Health-Trinity is taking a different approach to provide access to health information, resources and education, and be the location of health screenings and in-person provider education.

The health station, part of the Medicine in the Barbershop partnership between UPH-Trinity and 4 Sher Cut & Style, is intended to help advance health and wellness for African-American men while offering a health access point for clients of the barbershop.

“My goal in partnering with UnityPoint Health–Trinity is to motivate and inspire men to communicate, be conscientious, be confident in who we are and take initiative to recognize and prevent any ailments, disease or sickness — physical or mental — that have plagued us for generations,” said Sherwin Q. Robinson, Sr., owner of 4 Sher Cut & Style. “With personal knowledge and tools, my clients can live healthier lives and be better advocates for themselves and their families.”

The goals of the Medicine in the Barbershop program are to address health disparities, advance trust in the African-American community, increase education and awareness around specific health challenges facing the Black community, bring health care to the community where people live and work, and assist members of the community in accessing appropriate health care services.

Several historical events throughout the U.S. have led to feelings of distrust in within the African American Community and health care. Within the local region, the 2018 Quad Cities Community Health Needs Assessment found that the percentage of African-Americans who perceived the ease of obtaining local health care services as only fair or poor was significantly higher (26.3%) than that of whites (11.3%). One or more emergency room visits per year was found to be higher among African-Americans as well (18.7%) when compared with whites (10%).

The prevalence of certain diseases was also found to be slightly higher in the Black community, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity and the presence of one or more cardiovascular risks or behaviors.

“UnityPoint Health–Trinity is committed to achieving health equity for all and eliminating health care disparities,” Diversity & Community Impact Officer Daniel Joiner said. “In order to achieve this, we embrace ideas that provide health care services beyond traditional sites where people would go for resources and care. One of our goals is to strengthen and expand community partnerships that support health equity. We believe that connecting with people in barbershops through this initiative is a great way to reach our African-American neighbors in a setting that is not only frequented often but is a place where people feel comfortable.”

The health station at 4 Sher Cut & Style at 1706 Brady Street in Davenport includes a permanent desk in an area where customers waiting for a haircut can access health information and risk assessments on an iPad loaded with health apps and resources. Health screenings and community education events with physicians will be scheduled in the future when it is safe to gather in groups again.

The program is partially funded through a grant from the University of Iowa College of Public Health, Business Leadership Network Community Grant program. 

#pu-email-form-health-email { clear: both; background-color: #fff; color: #222; background-position: bottom; background-repeat: no-repeat; padding: 15px 20px; margin-bottom: 40px; box-shadow: 0px 2px 0px 0px rgba(0,0,0,.05); border-top: 4px solid rgba(0,0,0,.8); border-bottom: 1px solid rgba(0,0,0,.2); display: none; } #pu-email-form-health-email, #pu-email-form-health-email p { font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, “Segoe UI”, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, “Apple Color Emoji”, “Segoe UI Emoji”, “Segoe UI Symbol”; } #pu-email-form-health-email h1 { font-size: 24px; margin: 15px 0 5px 0; font-family: “serif-ds”, Times, “Times New Roman”, serif; } #pu-email-form-health-email .lead { margin-bottom: 5px; } #pu-email-form-health-email .email-desc { font-size: 16px; line-height: 20px; margin-bottom: 5px; opacity: 0.7; } #pu-email-form-health-email form { padding: 10px 30px 5px 30px; } #pu-email-form-health-email .disclaimer { opacity: 0.5; margin-bottom: 0; line-height: 100%; } #pu-email-form-health-email .disclaimer a { color: #222; text-decoration: underline; } #pu-email-form-health-email .email-hammer { border-bottom: 3px solid #222; opacity: .5; display: inline-block; padding: 0 10px 5px 10px; margin-bottom: -5px; font-size: 16px; }

Castle of Our Skins builds on success with spring music programs

Composer and violinist Jessie Montgomery can capture a huge sweep of music in a single movement. Montgomery’s “Source Code” has brief bits where it evokes familiar pieces of 19th century chamber music. But it spends a lot of time nodding to modernist classical music, winking at jazz traditions, and draws inspiration from Black artists of the civil rights era.

In early March, Castle of our Skins will bring Montgomery to the Longy School of Music at Bard College for a three-day residency that will feature lectures, master classes and open rehearsals culminating in the concert “Break Away.” A local concert and educational series devoted to celebrating Black artistry through music, Castle of our Skins will put on the residency — a wonderful chance to bring more attention to Montgomery’s growing catalog of compositions — as part of a long 12 months of expanding its reach and audience.

“This is our second residency, the idea being an annual experience where we bring a living composer from the African diaspora to be on campus to work with the students and work with us,” said Ashleigh Gordon, the co-founder and artistic and executive director of Castle of our Skins. “Some of (Montgomery’s) pieces come very much from the physical aspect of playing and exploring her own instrument. … Her work comes from a confluence of all her studies, many genres and generations, lived experiences, cultural experiences.”

In the wake of twin pandemics — a deadly virus and the unrelenting, devastating impact of racism — Castle of our Skins has only expanded its mission and highlighted both storied and almost-unknown Black artists.

“Like other Black arts organizations, we have had an astronomical donation season without even having to press or ask,” Gordon said. “It’s been overwhelming at times to translate energy into sustained momentum.”

Co-founded by Anthony R. Green, who is the associate artistic director, Castle of our Skins has made strategic moves — such as adding needed staff. It has also built an astonishing season of programming.

What started with more humble ideas, including the Black Composer Miniature Challenge that had it premiering short pieces written specifically for the organization, rolls into an impressive spring. After the Montgomery residence, “Dream-Visions” will see the first collaboration between Castle of our Skins and Winsor Music, a chamber music group based in Boston, and with “From the Motherland,” the organization presents its first concert program dedicated entirely to the continent of Africa.

Gordon isn’t just the leader of Castle of our Skins, she is a violist who needs to keep her skills sharp, even in a socially distant world. She has somehow found a balance between playing and rallying artists.

“I’ve managed to keep a pretty busy schedule of playing during this pandemic,” she said. “I’ve also been able to offer other artists opportunities to engage, been able to create platforms for them to engage. That’s been a pure necessity of mine as a creative person. I need to keep creative energy alive.”

Learn more about Castle of Our Skins at

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

The Jones-Hill House Is Part Of The Fabric Of Milwaukee’s Black Culture

A Bubbler Talk listener was curious about Black historical sites in Milwaukee. There are many, so I chose to look at one that’s had many lives: the Jones-Hill House in the Harambee neighborhood. The building on N. Palmer St.— and its owners — played key roles in the city’s Black culture, starting in the 1950s.

The Jones-Hill House looks like your standard Arts and Crafts-style home. It stands three stories tall and is built of that classic cream-colored brick. The window trim and eaves are painted with rusted orange and white accents.

Willie and Fostoria Jones bought it in 1953.

The Joneses owned and ran entertainment venues in the historic Bronzeville neighborhood, which was established by Black people who were confined to the north side of the city because of segregation. They formed a business district with social and professional clubs, financial institutions and much more.

The Joneses were part of that.

Daina Penkiunas of the Wisconsin Historical Society says Willie Jones was born in Tennessee in 1896 and moved to Milwaukee in 1914.

“And he came to Milwaukee and worked a number of different kinds of jobs, but by 1940, he owned a pool hall on W. Walnut St. and he also really helped out other businesspeople and established a number of other businesses in what was then known as Bronzeville. And one of the most notable of his ventures was the club Congo in the 1930s, which was very popular club,” she explains.

Penkiunas says Willie and his wife Fostoria also owned the Hillcrest Hotel where Black jazz musicians would stay since they weren’t allowed in white hotels. And the two co-owned the Casablanca, a rooming house and after-hours club in a converted mansion at 1641 N. Fourth St. Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, and Duke Ellington were some of the acts that performed there.

After-hours bars were popular in Bronzeville. When the Joneses bought what’s now known as the Jones-Hill House, they turned the basement into an after-hours bar.

Their friend and business partner, Eva Hill, who ran the Casablanca, bought a portion of the house from the Joneses before taking full ownership. She rented out the basement for parties and later ran a rooming house there too.

Penkiunas shares some of Hill’s story: “Eva was born in Arkansas in 1907 and she first moved to Chicago and came to Milwaukee about 1940. And she had worked in domestic housework, but she very soon also became a businesswoman and she really thought that owning a rooming house business was a lucrative career. Oral tradition is that she started renting out her own apartment and then started looking to see how she could expand into a bigger rooming house business.”

Hill ran a social club called The Creamettes on Fourth St. until urban redevelopment forced her to sell her property to the city in 1967.

She died in 1982. But her husband, Wiseman Keaton, still lived in the Jones-Hill House and rented out rooms for about a decade. Penkiunas says a fire in 1993 ended that.

“There was quite a bit of damage, about $20,000 worth of damage and it stopped being a rooming house about that time. The house was repaired, but again it wasn’t operating in the same manner as it had before,” she says.

The Keaton family sold the house to Calvin and Dorothy Greer in 1997. Six years later, they opened an art gallery there, called Greer Oaks Gallery. It featured works by Black artists, including from Milwaukee and from Calvin Greer, who was a well-known artist here.

Greer died in 2007. A line from a tribute to him in the Riverwest Currents newspaper reads: “One of his passions was celebrating African American history and culture by any means necessary.”

The Jones-Hill House has been a place for Black people in Milwaukee to live, to socialize and to experience art. And Black people made that space. In 2019, the Wisconsin Historical Society gave the house a historic site designation.

So, if you happen to be on the 2400 block of N. Palmer St., take in the sight of the Jones-Hill House. Now you know there’s more there than meets the eye.

Have a question you’d like WUWM to answer? Submit your query below.


RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment