Laurie, Eunice Rivers
- Susan M. Reverby
Eunice Rivers Laurie may have been America’s most controversial and frequently discussed black public health nurse. In l958 she was given the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare’s highest honor, the Oveta Culp Hobby Award, for her “notable service covering 25 years during which through selfless devotion and skillful human relations she has sustained the interest and cooperation of the subjects of a venereal disease control program in Macon County, Alabama.”
Fourteen years later, media coverage revealed that the control program was in reality what would be considered the United States’ longest-running unethical medical experiment. Nurse Rivers, as she was called in her community, had been crucial in sustaining the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. It was a forty-year “study” (1932-1972 by the U S Public Health Service of late stage syphilis in 399 African American men and 201 others as controls that kept its subjects ignorant of their ...
A version of this article originally appeared in Black Women in America, 2nd ed.