Story at a glance:

  • A Black unvaccinated couple died from the coronavirus, citing the Tuskegee study for the reason why they did not receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Alabama has the lowest percentage of fully vaccinated people in its population, with less than 36 percent of their residents fully vaccinated.
  • The Daniels’ family has a GoFundMe to raise donations to assist two of their surviving children’s education fund.

A Black unvaccinated couple who decided not to get the vaccine over concerns about the government’s Tuskegee study have died from COVID-19. 

Martin and Trina Daniel, 53 and 49 respectively, died on July 6. They were married for 22 years and have two teenage children, WSBTV, Atlanta's ABC affiliate, reported.

The couple’s decision not to get the COVID-19 vaccine was reportedly influenced by the government’s syphilis experiments on Black men in the 1930s, which were conducted in Alabama and where Martin graduated college, according to the outlet. 

Alabama also has the lowest percentage of fully vaccinated people. Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana also have less than 36 percent of their residents are fully vaccinated.

Their deaths come as the delta variant has spread across the U.S. and is responsible for more than 80 percent of new coronavirus cases, as Changing America previously reported.


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The Tuskegee study was a government-funded experiment from the 1930s to 1970s on the progression of syphilis, as well as to study if there were differences in symptoms among white patients and Black patients with late-stage syphilis. 

Black participants, all of whom were Black men who worked as sharecroppers, were told if they allowed Public Health Service doctors to perform tasks on their existing illness (which was syphilis, though they weren't told that) they would receive free health care — but the Alabama government lied, and the experiment was regarded as an ethically abusive study, according to Examining Tuskegee: the infamous syphilis study and its legacy.

About 400 men presumed to be infected with syphilis were given placebos in the form of drugs and were falsely told they were receiving special treatment. But instead they endured painful procedures that tapped inside their spinal cords to investigate the disease's neurological consequences, TED Talk reported.

"In order to track the disease's full progression, researchers provided no effective care as the men died, went blind or insane or experienced other severe health problems due to their untreated syphilis," according to History.com.

Before whistleblowers had the chance to expose the injustice, "28 participants had perished from syphilis, 100 more had passed away from related complications, at least 40 spouses had been diagnosed with it and the disease had been passed to 19 children at birth."

Martin died three hours apart from his wife Trina.

"Just tying these two events together and understanding the historical context of what's going on, it really wears on me sometimes," said Cornelius Daniel, Martin's nephew. 

The Daniels’ family has a GoFundMe to raise donations to assist two of their surviving children’s education fund. One is said to be entering college, and their “transition into a new norm.”


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Published on Jul 22, 2021