An important historical account of Tuskegee University’s significant advances in health care, which affected millions of lives worldwide.
Alabama’s celebrated, historically black Tuskegee University is most commonly associated with its founding president, Booker T. Washington, the scientific innovator George Washington Carver, or the renowned Tuskegee Airmen. Although the university’s accomplishments and devotion to social issues are well known, its work in medical research and health care has received little acknowledgment. Tuskegee has been fulfilling Washington’s vision of “healthy minds and bodies” since its inception in 1881. In To Raise Up the Man Farthest Down, Dana R. Chandler and Edith Powell document Tuskegee University’s medical and public health history with rich archival data and never-before-published photographs. Chandler and Powell especially highlight the important but largely unsung role that Tuskegee University researchers played in the eradication of polio, and they add new dimension and context to the fascinating story of the HeLa cell line that has been brought to the public’s attention by popular media.
Tuskegee University was on the forefront in providing local farmers the benefits of agrarian research. The university helped create the massive Agricultural Extension System managed today by land grant universities throughout the United States. Tuskegee established the first baccalaureate nursing program in the state and was also home to Alabama’s first hospital for African Americans. Washington hired Alabama’s first female licensed physician as a resident physician at Tuskegee. Most notably, Tuskegee was the site of a remarkable development in American biochemistry history: its microbiology laboratory was the only one relied upon by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (the organization known today as the March of Dimes) to produce the HeLa cell cultures employed in the national field trials for the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines. Chandler and Powell are also interested in correcting a long-held but false historical perception that Tuskegee University was the location for the shameful and infamous US Public Health Service study of untreated syphilis.
Meticulously researched, this book is filled with previously undocumented information taken directly from the vast Tuskegee University archives. Readers will gain a new appreciation for how Tuskegee’s people and institutions have influenced community health, food science, and national medical life throughout the twentieth century.
Dana R. Chandler is the university archivist and an assistant professor of history at Tuskegee University. He serves on the board of directors of the Epigraphic Society and won the 2016 Outstanding Faculty Performance Award at Tuskegee University for Service, Library Services.
Edith Powell is a retired professor in the School of Nursing and Allied Health at Tuskegee University. She is certified in clinical laboratory science and blood banking by the American Society of Clinical Pathologists and is a member of the advisory committee for Tuskegee University’s National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care.
“A timely and important historical account of significant advances in health care made at Tuskegee over the span of more than a century. . . . To Raise Up the Man Farthest Down recognizes the tenures of [five] Tuskegee presidents for their efforts to eradicate the racial, social, and cultural obstacles that they faced in their collective quest to maintain fidelity to the mission first espoused by Dr. Washington: high quality educational programs, effective public health policies, and equal opportunity.”
—from the foreword by Linda Kenney Miller