Sadly, as as much as American history is filled with triumphs and heroes, it is also full of horrors.
One of the more disturbing components of American history is the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, in which the government conducted a medical experiment on about 600 rural black men without their knowledge.
In partnership with Tuskegee University, the United States Public Health Service studied black men in rural Alabama from 1932 and 1972 according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Study leaders never told any of the subjects that they had syphilis, and even blocked some participants from receiving treatment after they learned elsewhere that they had the disease.
Study leaders wanted to see what would happen to people in whom syphilis was left untreated. To make matter worse, participants were duped into believing that they would receive free health care for participating in the study.
After the facts of the case were revealed by the Associated Press in 1972, a class-action suit was launched consisting of more than 6,000 descendants of the 600 participants.
A $10 million legal settlement was granted.
Now, more than 30 years later, an undisclosed amount of that money has not been claimed.
According to the the Atlanta Black Star, a fight is brewing over who will get the remaining money.
On one side is the Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center, which hosts an exhibition hall that details the study. On the other side is a group comprised of study descendants called the Voices of our Fathers Legacy Foundation, which says the money rightfully belongs to the descendants.
And on the third side is the Trump administration, who says that the unclaimed money belongs to the federal government based on the terms of the original settlement agreement.
“It was meant to go to the descendants in the first place,” said Lillie Tyson Head, president of the Voices of our Fathers Legacy Foundation. Head and his faction have sent a letter to a district judge requesting that no decision be made until the descendants have hired attorneys to advocate for them.
Fred Gray, who heads the museum, told the Star that he has not seen the group’s letter request, but maintains his hope that the money can go to his museum.
It's a fierce tug-of-war no matter which way you look at it. With no study participants left alive, it is hard to say where they would have wanted the money to go.
Whichever way the money falls, we'll be sure to let you know what happens.