From 1932 until 1973, more than 400 black men with syphilis were followed up without treatment in the "Tuskegee Syphilis Study" of the Public Health Service. After this study was publicized in 1972, James H. Jones, a historian, began the study of its origins and evolution, which comprises Bad Blood.
Jones begins in the 19th century with evidence, drawn from their writings, of the racial prejudice that white physicians shared with society at large. In particular, white physicians maintained that promiscuity led to allegedly more prevalent and more severe syphilis in blacks. As transmissible agents of disease came to be understood, physicians began instead to regard syphilis as a disease to which all infected were equally susceptible (although many physicians continued to hold that the disease was manifest differently in whites and blacks). In the early 1930s, a philanthropic organization, the Rosenwald Fund, cooperated with the PHS in several ventures