Blackface photo reopens long history of bigotry in medicine

NEW YORK (AP) — The racist caricature shown on the Virginia governor’s yearbook page isn’t the only thing upsetting to African-Americans. It’s also the fact that the photo was published just as Ralph Northam was finishing medical school to become a pediatrician.

The image from 1984 reopened the history of bigotry in American medicine. And the revelations about Northam gave many black people a new reason to be distrustful of doctors. Northam denies he’s in the photo but admits wearing blackface another time.

The history of race and medicine includes an experiment conducted in Jim Crow-era Alabama, where hundreds of black men with syphilis were left untreated for decades so government researchers could track the disease’s progress. A physician in the 1800s operated on slave women without anesthesia as he developed a gynecological technique.

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