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A Dark History Revealed

A Dark History Revealed

Fascinating, interesting and disturbing is how I’d characterize our cover story, “The Secrets of St. Agnes.” When we first learned of Irene Clark’s research on St. Agnes, a hospital for Blacks in North Carolina, we couldn’t help but think about the notorious Tuskegee experiment. Starting in 1932, hundreds of Black men in Alabama went to Tuskegee seeking treatment for syphilis. But the scientists let the disease go untreated so they could study how it spread and how it killed. In the case of St. Agnes Hospital, thousands of poor and mentally ill patients were sterilized between 1923 and 1973 because public health officials deemed them unfit to procreate. And this was all going on in a hospital that was located on the edge of St. Augustine’s College, a historically Black institution in Raleigh.

Clark, a retired biology professor at St. Augustine’s, did not set out to do research on the hospital, but one day a janitor asked her what she knew about the crumbling stone building at the edge of campus. Says Clark, “Little did I know where that conversation would lead.”

Like something out of a crime novel, Clark came in contact with people who warned her not to dig any deeper into St. Agnes’ history because of what she might uncover. But with the help of other historians who have conducted research on eugenics in the region, Clark was relentless, hence her husband’s nickname for her, “the detective.” Our North Carolina-based reporter, Janell Ross, was also relentless, contacting the few surviving hospital physicians who were known to have performed the sterilizations. This is an article you won’t want to skip.

Turning our focus to financial aid, a topic on the minds of many students, particularly as the new academic year approaches, “Solving the Funding Riddle” looks at funds available specifically for American Indian students. While there are numerous organizations out there providing financial assistance to this particular student group, much of the funds go unused because many American Indian students aren’t aware that they exist. For example, one scholarship coordinator with Utah’s American Indian Services recalls an event where the organization invited 50 chairmen of local tribes and awarded two scholarships to each tribe. Only five of those scholarships ended up being used, she says. So getting the word out is indeed a challenge.

On a lighter note, we sent a photographer to capture what were happy moments on the New Orleans campus of Dillard University earlier this month. On July 1, Dillard held its commencement and President Marvalene Hughes was finally inaugurated, an event that was put on hold last fall because of Hurricane Katrina. So, after months of operating out of a hotel while their campus undergoes major rebuilding and renovations due to hurricane-related damage, returning to Dillard for these two celebratory events was a dream come true for the university community.

Hilary Hurd Anyaso

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