Miss Evers' Boys (1997) Movie Script

( woman vocalizing )
Show me
If there's a way
Show me
I can't see
And I can't hide
My sorrow
If there's a way out
Won't you show me
If there's a heaven
Would you take me
If there's a heaven
Don't forsake me
Oh, there's no place
To run
You know everything
That I've done
If there's a heaven
Would you still take me
"I solemnly pledge myself
before God
to pass my life
in purity...
( camera shutter clicks )
...to practice my profession
to endeavor
with loyalty,
to assist the physician
in his work,
to devote myself
to the welfare
"of those patients
committed to my care."
That's the oath
I took, Senator.
Just like the doctors do,
I took an oath,
the nurse's oath.
You have to understand,
nursing was my life.
We do understand
and respect that,
Miss Evers.
And we do appreciate
very much
your testifying
before us today.
I hope you understand
that the sole purpose
of this committee
is to discover the truth
about the public health
service program
commonly called
"The Tuskegee Study."
That's what
we all want, sir.
Now I understand
you worked on the program
from the beginning.
From the very first
in 1932
up until I retired
a few years ago--
nearly 40 years.
( chuckles )
Oh goodness,
that's longer
than I've been
in the Senate.
( crowd laughing )
Tell me, Miss Evers,
how did you feel
about the study?
Our patients got
the best doctoring
they ever had
in their life.
But according
to the testimony
so far, Miss Evers,
there are ways
in which this study
sounds like some sort
of Nazi experiment.
It was established
at Nuremberg that
without informed consent--
You did the best
you could, whatever.
There was an epidemic
with all that syphilis
going around, Senator.
Life was always hard
in Macon County,
but the Depression
made it worse.
You just have
no idea what it was like
down there back then.
We've heard a lot
of testimony, Miss Evers.
from some of the patients,
from other nurses
and from your supervisor
Dr. Brodus.
Dr. Brodus
is a fine doctor
who cared, Senator.
I don't care what y'all
say about him now.
I was honored to serve
under that man.
( insects chirping )
( man wheezing )
Are we just gonna
let him choke to death?
Well, what do you
suggest, Nurse?
We've tried digitalis.
We've tried mercurial
Maybe I should
just cut him open
and drain him.
I'm sorry.
I don't mean
to take it out on you.
It was a farming accident,
wasn't it?
Yeah. He was plowing.
The mule got away
from him, kicked him,
crushed his chest.
His heart
just won't work.
Is that fluid
on the pericardium?
We'll have to notify
his parents.
What made you think,
that you were old enough
to handle a mule?
His bedclothes are wet.
I'm gonna get dry ones.
No. No, wait a minute.
Get away from him.
Nurse, I want you
to get me a syringe
with a large bore needle.
What did I say?
"Cut him open and
drain him"?
Maybe I knew what
I was talking about.
Now I'm not gonna--
I'm not gonna
hurt you, son.
I just want to take a look
at your chest, that's all.
I just want to take a look.
And you take
Nurse Evers' hand.
Here it is.
And you squeeze it tight.
You can't hurt me.
You don't get much
of a chance
to hold on to a pretty
lady's hand like that,
now do you?
I'm not gonna
hurt you, son.
Am I, Nurse?
No, Doctor.
That's it.
That's it.
You gotta trust the doctor.
I'm gonna get you
out of this, boy.
You trust him
and you'll be up
and around in no time.
That's true.
( continues wheezing )
I don't want you
with that mule no more.
What's that mule's name?
Hang on-- what's his name?
( wheezing )
( wheezing quieter )
( breathing deeply )
( dogs barking )
( people chattering )
( car honking )
It was performed
by a fine doctor.
And this Dr. Brodus--
is he colored or is he white?
Papa, how many times
I gotta tell you
we don't have
white doctors
at Tuskegee?
The way you've
been carrying on,
I thought maybe--
I wasn't carrying on.
I was just being
He saved
that boy's life.
What's he supposed to do?
He's a doctor, ain't he?
Wait on people
doing what they
supposed to do
and see how long
you wait.
You always did like
saving people.
I didn't save him.
Dr. Brodus saved him.
I was only doing
my nursing job.
Don't you be saying,
"only" neither.
You're a nurse
and that's more
than just a job,
so don't you go
making light of it.
I'm not, Papa.
Unless you want
to end up cleaning
some white lady's toilet
like your mama had to do
all of her life.
No, I have had
my share of that.
Ham will be out
in 10 minutes.
We didn't slave to send you
to a nursing school
for that kind
of life.
No, Papa,
you did not.
All right then.
All right then.
( knocks on door )
Come in.
Yes, Doctor?
Oh good, Nurse Evers.
Are you still checked out
to drive
the district office car?
I've got a new job for you.
Do you need me
to go somewhere?
If we hurry, we can--
we can make it on time.
There's somebody
very important
that we have to pick up
off the bus.
( blues playing )
Dr. Douglas.
I'm sorry we're late.
I hope you had
a pleasant trip.
Yes, I did.
Welcome to Tuskegee.
How are you?
Sure a pleasure
seeing you, Doctor.
You too. Bags?
Oh, yes.
Let me give you a hand.
Thank you.
Oh, I forgot my manners.
Dr. Douglas, Nurse Evers.
How do?
It's a pleasure.
Yes sir.
Dr. Douglas, I think
you're gonna find
that Nurse Evers will be
a tremendous help to you.
Well, we will need
all the help we can get.
And luckily, we've got
all the funding we need
from a foundation
in Chicago.
Everyone's aware
of what a plague
syphilis has become
and we're determined
to stamp this thing out.
But this problem is
just for the Negroes
in Macon County.
Yes, and that's why
Tuskegee was chosen.
It's one of the few
all-Negro hospitals
in the South,
in a county that's
almost 80% colored.
Now you may not
know this,
but you people have
one of the highest
concentrations of syphilis
in the country.
It's nearly 35%.
We know it, Doctor.
I mean, our wards are
filled with syphilis
because the white hospitals
won't let them in.
Negroes also have more
pellagra, pneumonia and TB,
but there is no statistical
basis for the belief
that syphilis is
a Negro disease
any more than
it was a French disease
in the last century
or Russian or Polish
before that.
No, don't get me
wrong, Doctor,
I'm not one of those
that believe that Negroes
are inherently more susceptible
because of some...
I mean, I voted
for Roosevelt.
We'll have to test them
first, of course,
give them
Wassermann's to make sure.
I'll take that, Doctor.
That in itself will be
a huge undertaking.
Great pains for great
rewards, right?
You don't intend
on telling them they
have syphilis, do you?
Well, if they have it,
we'll have to tell them
something, won't we?
Well, maybe we'd better
not use a word they've
never heard before.
That'd just scare
them off, Doctor.
So what are supposed
to tell them?
Just tell them that there's
something the matter
with their blood.
You don't have
to say exactly.
They all know
about bad blood.
She's right.
That's what they
call anything that's
the matter with them.
The main thing is,
we have to make them
we only want
to get them well.
And indeed we do.
I do, you do
and the government does.
This way.
We're gonna find a cure
for this disease.
We're gonna stop
at nothing less.
They doing this
for the Negro?
Gotta be a hoodwink
in there someplace.
Don't go always looking
for the underside, girl.
But I'm always
finding it.
These men
are being treated
for a very bad disease,
and that's more
than anybody else
has ever done for them,
so don't you go
making a mockery
of it, Betty Parsons.
Now look,
you're taking my place
here on the ward,
so you hop to it.
You keep your eye out
on old Mr. Blakely,
'cause you're gonna think
he's taking his medicine,
but he hiding his pills
under his tongue.
And that new man
that's come in--
you check him for a fever
every two hours
and make sure he don't go
spiking on you.
Listen to me
giving you advice.
Come here, girl.
You're gonna do
just fine.
But now don't go
getting too many ideas
of your own self.
You listen
to your doctors,
'cause they know, hear?
I hear you.
You sure look good
in your new uniform, Eunice.
Thank you.
Like you was
born to it.
It's gonna be
a great thing.
Good luck!
I'll see you.
Miss Evers:
It was a great thing.
The government had never
done nothing like that
for us before.
It was the dawn
of a new day
and I was the one
they had chose
to spread the word.
I have been sent--
I have been
I have been sent here
by the government,
the United States
yes, I have,
up there
in Washington.
And the government is sending us
the best medicine
to treat
anybody in this county
who needs it.
When did that
ever happen, hmm?
Oh, something good is
starting up for a change,
something new.
And this time
we all gonna be
part of it.
You have not seen
the health you're gonna see
in Macon County,
Y'all gonna come see me?
When you get there,
you will see me,
don't worry.
You gonna come
see me, sister?
You gonna bring that big
pretty baby with you?
You gonna come see
Nurse Eunice?
Yes, that baby's
gonna come.
Miss Evers:
The way the government
was thinking, Mr. Kirk, sir,
is that you might have
field hands don't even know
they got bad blood.
They're just--
they're kind of sickly
a lot of the time.
That, sir, is not good
for your cotton business.
Mm, see,
stand to reason
that a sickly field hand
ain't gonna pick
near about as much cotton
as a healthy one.
So, uh, we get
them better
and then as that's
helping them,
it's helping you,
which is my concern too,
'cause we're here
for the whole community.
Yes, ma'am,
even if you're dirt poor
and you ain't got
a dime to your name,
if you ain't seen a doctor
in your whole life,
if you got bad blood,
you get treated for free.
Now ain't that something?
I'm asking you,
ain't that something
for a government
to be doing?
And for the colored?
Oh, we got us
a whole new deal here.
Now who coming to see me?
Raise up your hand.
Who coming to see me?
( harmonica playing )
( men chattering )
Ah, morning.
Morning, Miss Lady.
Y'all done bring
your friends?
Well, I'm happy
to see you.
I'm Miss Evers.
Ooh, what's that?
Good morning.
( harmonica continues )
Snake hips, baby.
What you do next?
Bow away.
Bow away it is.
Hey! Oh!
( laughing )
Hey hey hey!
Yeah! Ha!
That felt good.
We'll get
that Victrola.
That was truly fine.
The way you was
turning and twisting,
that's the mark
of a born dancer.
Thank you.
Excuse me.
I'm Nurse Evers.
I'm the person
you're here to meet.
Thank you for coming.
We're here
on account of Mr. Kirk.
He told us we gotta.
He send you too?
No white man sent me,
a colored man,
a fine, important
colored man,
Dr. Samuel J. Brodus
from up at Tuskegee,
to offer y'all
some free doctoring.
Free, huh?
You say free?
Yeah, doctoring
as fine and free
as any you can get
Yeah, but see,
we ain't sick.
That's right.
You seen anybody
that's sick
be able to dance
like this?
( scats )
Now that's a mighty
fine movement,
but that still don't mean
you ain't got bad blood.
How you know
we got bad blood?
Well, that's what
we're gonna find out,
ain't it?
Been a long time
since I sat here.
This where you done
your schooling?
I sat right smack dab
in front of Miss Teeters.
Look. She didn't
like us doing that,
but everybody did it.
( chuckles )
Just had to be careful
not to get caught.
You sir, your name?
Wait, hold up.
Why the government
helping us all
of a sudden?
they got a war coming?
They gonna need us?
Well, they have a whole
new view of things,
a kind of people
point of view,
and it's coming
straight down from
President Roosevelt.
Well, I ain't scared
to give my name.
My name is Willie Johnson.
W-I-L-L-E Johnson.
Give your name.
Hodman Bryan.
Well, I'm Ben.
I'm Big Ben Washington.
Big Ben Washington.
See, we're a group,
the four of us.
You're looking
at the next winners
of the Macon County
Victrola Gillee Competition
right here.
Both: That's right.
Yeah, but see,
just 'cause
I give you my name
that don't mean
I'm coming back
for no treatment.
I just had me an idea.
I know how I can get
the government to take y'all
to that competition.
How are you gonna
do that?
I'll drive you there
in my government car
after we stop off
at the hospital
and get you free tests
and your free
hot lunches.
Hey, free lunch,
all right.
Free lunch?
We got to fatten you up
for the kill.
( guffaws )
I got you.
She joshin' us.
( men chattering,
laughing )
She almost
has us there.
I got scared.
( giggles )
Oh, your face.
Okay, now y'all said
there's four of you
in this here group.
Where's the fourth?
He ain't coming, no.
See, he don't believe
anything Mr. Kirk says
could be good for the colored.
He work for Mr. Kirk?
No, he don't work
for Mr. Kirk.
It's Caleb-- he work
for hisself.
Well, this ain't
got nothing to do
with Mr. Kirk.
You're dealing
with the government
right here.
Caleb Humphries.
Caleb Humphries...
sat right behind me.
You're joshing now.
I will never
forget that boy
as long as I live.
He made me
so miserable--
pulling on my hair
and sticking my pigtails
in the inkwell.
( laughing )
If I do nothing
with him...
That sounds just
like Caleb, don't it?
It sound like Caleb.
He won't come in
for treatment?
Not Caleb, hmm-mm.
Well, I've been
waiting 20 years
to put some size
on that boy.
Can I--?
There. That don't
exactly make us even,
but it's something.
Eunice Evers.
And don't say
you don't remember me.
Eunice Evers.
I remember you.
You were the smart one.
Remember what you
used to do to me?
You was a girl.
That ain't no good reason.
You still ought
to be ashamed.
Excuse me.
Hey hey.
Come here.
Carry this feed
out to your mama
out yonder.
Almost done.
We got company.
Well, you have
a fine-looking family.
Oh, my brother's
wife's kids.
I'm just living here,
helping out.
What's this about
you not coming
for treatment?
I don't trust
no government.
As far as this
doctoring is concerned,
I'm the government.
What you got to say
about that?
Do you trust me
or do you still want
to pull my hair?
( men singing )
( men laughing )
I'm going up north
I won't leave you
Gonna take my mule
He can get it too
Gonna find me a dale
With a mountain view
Gonna jump that broom
Make a bed there too...
Oh, I'm going up north
Hey, I got one, I got one.
( men continue singing,
chattering )
They came in with me,
and so did the other ones
I talked to,
and the ones
they talked to.
Did they come!
On foot,
in the owners' trucks.
Any way they could,
they came in for treatment,
sorely needed treatment.
Good morning.
Good morning.
Oh my God.
There's so many.
I had no idea.
Welcome to Macon County,
Well, we'd better start
another line.
There are a lot of men here
in need of care.
If I could have
all the young men
down on this end
please file into this room
and form two new lines.
Thank you.
Good morning.
Good morning.
How is that son
of yours?
Oh, that stuff
you give him, it sure
did the-- ow!
Sure did the trick,
Miss Evers.
Well, we're gonna get
everybody in Macon County
well, you'll see.
Next group.
Ma'am, I see you're
getting even with me
for pulling
your hair, huh?
( men laugh )
You ain't
getting off that easy,
but give me your finger.
It's all right.
All right?
Hold it up.
No no, Miss Evers.
I don't want to get
my blood took.
Go on, Hodman.
I got a wife.
I got a wife.
I got--
I'm still young
and I got obligations.
You know, to my wife.
Family obligations.
So I just can't
have my blood took.
You know Fred Milson
down at Alma?
Works in the sawmill.
He's got seven,
going on eight children.
He's been giving
his blood for six years,
and his obligations
is doing just fine.
( laughing )
Well, I sure hope
you're right, Miss Evers,
'cause that--
Oh, I am.
I wouldn't say it
if it wasn't so.
Could you step
out here for a second?
Eunice: Okay?
Would you excuse me?
I'd like to speak
with the men.
Sure, go right ahead.
Gentlemen, there seems
to be some confusion.
Let me explain
what we're checking for.
There is a germ
that infects
the genital area,
resulting in a temporary
and painless
but highly contagious
penal ulceration.
Now this ulceration
will disappear
as the disease becomes
or latent.
And this--
this latency can last
for up to 30 years
until finally
the cardiovascular
and nervous systems
will disintegrate
and collapse.
Are there
any questions?
Doctor, could I just
say something?
By frolicking too much,
or maybe passed on from
your mama and your daddy,
you might get
a really bad sore down below
on your private parts.
Then through that sore
a bug can crawl up
inside of you
and go to sleep
for 20-30 years or more,
so as not to hurt
nobody but you.
But when it wake up,
you can't walk,
you can't
breathe, you can't think.
That is bad blood.
That's what we're
checking to see if y'all got,
so we can get rid of it.
( men chattering )
Oh, all right.
That make sense.
( chuckles )
You're done.
Come on, Willie.
Nurse, could I speak
with you for a second?
Thank you.
Yes, Doctor?
( sighs )
Thank you.
I know I'm a good
medical doctor,
but I'm not so sure
that I'm a good
people doctor yet.
Dr. Douglas,
you're helping people.
You're a good
people doctor.
Evening, Eunice.
I see you've worked
a long day.
The world's
full of sickness.
Look, I ain't accustomed
to asking for favors--
Well, you ain't used
to seeing me again neither,
but here we are.
I was wondering,
could you get ahold
to a book--
a medicine book
to tell you about
that bug.
Oh, the docs will answer
any questions that you have.
I know, but I'd rather
read up on it for myself.
Those books are
so technical.
Mm, you think
I won't understand it.
I'll see what's
in the library.
What did you
quit school for?
You was the smartest one
in the class.
I was just the pushiest.
You used to drive
Miss Teeters crazy asking
questions all the time,
then all of a sudden
you wasn't there.
I'd appreciate it
if you could get ahold
of that book for me.
( percussive music playing )
( crowd cheering )
Old boys
is pretty good.
Yeah, but they ain't
good as you, Willie,
and you know they ain't.
I don't know
about that.
See the way that boy
was doing that
Shoot, I done
seen you do that step
in your sleep, Willie.
Yeah well,
the only thing is
now I'm wide awake.
You go ahead,
old Willie Johnson.
Come on, Willie,
you gotta think
positive now.
We gonna win
this thing here.
That's right,
'cause we the best.
Ain't no doubt
about that.
You tell that boy
to say our new name?
You know I told him
to say our name.
He better not forget.
'Cause that
name's gonna be our
good luck charm.
Oh, names don't
give you no luck.
Neither do charms.
What do you know
about charms?
I know enough
not to mess
with them.
Hey hey, shh shh.
Listen, everybody listen.
Listen up.
From Macon County,
a group
we've been hearing a lot
of good things about,
Miss Evers' Boys!
( cheering and applause )
( playing upbeat music )
Go on, Willie,
work your head.
Dance it out, Willie.
Work that, boy.
Get on down there.
Here we go, y'all.
See, you-- I looked
over there at Caleb,
I said, "What?"
When you went up high,
what was that you did then?
That's right.
You mean, when I went
up in the air?
Oh, that was the--
that was the jackspring.
You sure did get
everybody's attention
out there today.
You sure did.
You got mine.
I tell you the truth,
I-I can't believe
we won the Victrola.
You know, I ain't--
I ain't never won nothing
my whole life.
Me neither.
This sure been
some night.
Yes sir.
First of many, Willie.
You're right, Miss Evers,
right from here
right on to the Cotton Club
in Harlem, New York, USA.
That's what I'm
talking about.
Oh, Willie got
aspirations, y'all.
Ben: Yes.
What's wrong with that?
Don't you?
Oh, Miss Evers, now you know
Caleb wouldn't tell you
if he had.
Caleb wouldn't
tell his own mama
he'd been born.
I guess he figures
she's to find out
sooner or later.
Oh. Ooh.
Y'all need to quit now.
There's our house.
It's right over there,
Miss Evers.
Ooh, wait till everybody
sees this coming in.
( all laugh )
Come on out here, Hods.
( thunder crashing )
There you go.
Take this. Don't drop it.
Boys, I'll tell you
this time the Victrola,
next time the record.
That's right.
I like that.
Hey, Maisie,
you and the children
come out here,
look at this.
Hodman, Ben, Willie,
Miss Evers' boys.
That's us.
I just want you
to know
that naming your group
after me--
Oh, we knew it would
bring us luck,
Miss Evers.
Well, I have never had
such an honor
and I just want
to thank you.
Hey, it's the first
of many.
Oh, yeah.
( laughs )
Good night, Miss Evers.
Caleb, talk to you later.
Thanks, Miss Evers.
Caleb, see you.
See you, Miss Evers.
( starts engine )
( thunder crashing )
The audience loved y'all.
( chuckles )
That Willie--
he's very good.
He really could get
to the Cotton Club
if he wanted to.
Hey, that book
you give me...
Well, I had them
symptoms once, so...
y'all give me that test
to make sure about it.
The Wassermann test?
And that test can tell
whether you got it
or you don't?
That's right.
Well, do I or don't I?
Caleb, the doctors--
I'm asking you now.
Yeah, you have it.
So do the rest of the men,
Hodman, Ben, Willie,
actually most of the men
that came in.
But syphilis
is treatable.
There's Salvarsan treatment.
There's the mercury rubs.
That'll cure it?
it's not 100%.
And there's
some side effects,
but there's a chance.
What kind
of chance?
Caleb, you're fine, Caleb,
you really are.
And we're gonna make
all y'all even finer.
There's a whole lot more
competitions to win.
But, uh, you won't
tell them, will you?
I mean,
what they got.
All they know is
they got bad blood and we
don't want to scare them.
You telling me
I got a right to know.
Why don't they got
a right to know?
Well, I made
an exception for you.
It was unprofessional,
but what's done is done.
But we don't want
to scare the other men.
They ain't children.
They're colored.
Please, Caleb,
the doctors know
what they're doing
and they think
it's for the best.
You think that too?
Of course I do, yes.
Why are you always
trying to fluster me?
You ain't changed
a bit, have you?
All right.
I'll keep
my mouth shut.
You ain't changed
a bit neither.
( jazz playing )
Rub hard now,
hard as you can.
Rub hard now.
Squeeze that mercury
into those muscles
till they holler.
Men: Please.
Ooh, I can't even
hear you.
That is the puniest "please"
I ever heard.
That's better.
The harder you rub,
the quicker the bad blood
becomes hot blood.
( laughing )
Willie Johnson.
I bet you ain't never
seen no dance step
like that before.
Actually I have seen
something similar.
the Cotton Club.
Oh, man, you're lying.
You ain't been
in no Cotton Club.
No, I'm not.
Okay, who you seen
dance there?
Well, I've seen
Buckin' Bubbles
and Snakelips...
Snakehips Tucker?
Yeah, that's it.
Snakehips Tucker.
Hey, man,
did you see
Ruby Blue?
Ruby Blue?
I don't think so.
He don't think so.
Hey, man, if you'd
seen Ruby Blue,
you wouldn't think so.
You'd know so.
Mm-hmm. Oh yeah.
Oh man,
he be scatting
and leaping.
Hey, he's the best.
I guess I'm just gonna
have to get back there
someday and see him.
I guess you will.
Hey, Miss Evers.
You know
what this man say?
He say he's been
to the Cotton Club.
Well, he can't
stay ignorant all his life.
( laughing )
Listen to you.
And I wasn't lying.
I was actually there.
Caleb, I don't know
any more books
on the matter.
Oh, I don't need
no more.
You wouldn't go out
with anybody who got
what I got, would you?
You mean go out--?
Like to a picture show
or get something to eat,
something like that.
You wouldn't do that with--?
No, I wouldn't go
with anybody that--
Yeah, that's what
I figured.
Yeah, all right then.
I'd go with you.
I don't want
you stepping out
with no field hand.
You're a professional
woman, a nurse.
You don't
see any doctors
asking me out,
or lawyers
for that matter,
or undertakers.
And he's not just
a field hand.
He's-- why am I
making excuses?
I've been trying
to tell you all your life
you got to set
your sights high,
uphold the dignity
of this family.
( knocks on door )
Got a good sense
of timing too.
Evening, Eunice.
Come on in.
I got my truck waiting.
Come on, it ain't
gonna run off.
Come on, I want you
to meet my papa.
This is Caleb Humphries.
Caleb, Mr. Evers.
Good evening, sir.
He sat right behind me
in Miss Teeters' class
and pulled my hair.
You've seen the worst.
Don't go brooding on it.
( engine backfiring )
Eunice: Caleb, are you sure
this thing'll make it?
Hush now. She don't
take kindly to disrespect.
I heard this was
a juke-joint out here.
Well, they have
the liquor
and all that carrying on
on Saturdays.
Mm, good barbecue.
I bet you my mama
made better.
Everybody's mama
made better.
( chuckles )
I remember me
and my brother--
we had the job
of ladling out
the sauce, you know?
It sure was good,
my mama's barbecue.
I always wished
I had a brother...
...or even a sister.
My mama couldn't have
any more children
after me.
Was that the only
brother you had?
Yeah, he's--
he's dead.
Oh, I'm sorry, I--
I just thought maybe,
you know, with what
you got and all,
it was--
Oh, you want
to know what he died of.
He didn't have what I have.
Well, he didn't
have no disease.
Was it accident?
He got himself
Oh God.
He had a big mouth,
like me.
I'm sorry, I--
I didn't connect
the name.
Well, ain't no reason
for you to do that now.
I mean, there's plenty
of Humphries around here.
Look, I'm sorry.
I didn't mean to spoil
your evening.
I got you dripping
all over your good dress.
Look, forget the dress.
You know,
what's funny is
I was fixing to leave here
when it happened.
For where?
Anywhere, USA.
( chuckles )
Ride the rails...
you know, see what's up north
or out west-- California.
You think it'd be
any different?
Sure can't be the same.
I dream on that
Going up to New York City
and see the sights,
don't have to get off
the sidewalk
when a white person
come along.
Well, why don't you?
I love what
I'm doing here--
the treatment, the program,
knowing I'm doing good.
With us sinners.
The disease is the sin,
Caleb, not the people--
the disease.
And you smotin' it
'fore and after.
Good Lord help me.
Oh God.
I'm thinking
Lord don't want me
to wear this dress.
I reckon not.
Is it okay?
Oh yeah,
should be all right.
after my brother--
well, that's why
I had to leave school,
take his place
down the way.
You were
just a child.
You could have
kept up at home,
as smart
as you were.
You ever tried
picking cotton all day
and studying at night?
I tried.
Kept falling asleep.
Everybody can't be
John Henry.
You got no reason
to hold back.
You're fine.
Come on.
Dr. Douglas:
Sam, I've got some bad news.
The program is
being canceled.
( chuckles )
We've run out
of money.
Well, the foundation
in Chicago, I mean,
they're gonna--
Lost most of its assets
in the crash.
They've given us
all they can.
What about the Public
Health Service?
The program was their idea
in the first place.
"Stamp out syphilis,"
you said.
We're treating
1400 patients.
That's 40 injections
a year for each man.
There's just too much disease
for the budget.
Now the idea was
to use the funding to get
the program started
and then turn it over
to the states.
States don't have
any money.
Who was it that said
that the poor aren't
affected by Wall Street?
Sam, I'm in touch
with Washington.
We all want to see
if we can salvage this.
I mean, the data
we've collected
this last year alone
is worth its weight
in gold.
I'm not interested in data.
I'm interested in treatment.
Think of what it can mean
for your race,
for the advancement
in science.
The loss here
is in lives, Doctor.
I understand that.
Just give me
some time, okay?
Let's cut staff
to the bare bone,
divert funds
from other departments,
whatever you have to do.
At least buy us
a few more months.
And then what will I do?
These men are sick.
They need treatment.
I know.
We just can't
stop it like that.
We've got no choice.
Doctor, they trust us.
Nurse Evers,
now you've done
a wonderful job,
but I have to take you
off the program.
We have to use
what little money we have
for treatment, cut back
in all departments.
It's either staff
or medicine.
I understand.
Yes, of course.
Now you can go back
to the ward.
Betty Parsons is there.
You have seniority.
No, I wouldn't take
somebody else's job.
You have a perfect right--
No, I wouldn't do that.
I hope-- I pray
that this is just
and that I'll be
calling you back soon.
I know you'll do
the best you can.
( sighs )
Oh, Mr. Williams,
not that you know
I'm even here,
we're just gonna be
late for catfish night.
Six months passed
with no word.
There were fewer
and fewer treatments,
and pretty soon
none at all.
I tried to see 'em
when I could,
but I had to take a job,
the only one I could find,
working as a domestic,
just like my mother.
( women chattering )
( women laughing )
You had your supper?
I had their supper.
Them folk waste more food
than law allow.
We could feed
the whole county.
How are my boys?
Your boys miss you.
I sure miss them.
Mm-hmm, Dr. Douglas
is worried
about Willie doing
his four-foot
knee drops.
Said he might hurt
his cartridges.
You mean--
I know-- cartilage.
I looked it up.
But Willie took it
for "cartridges."
And now he think
he got bullets
in his knees.
( both laugh )
I hear they're headed
up to DC.
Dr. Douglas
and Dr. Brodus.
For what?
Can't tell by me.
Douglas went up there,
what, last week?
Brodus rushed off today.
Wha-- to Washington?
How was your trip?
Well, first the bus,
then the train--
I don't know which was
more excruciating.
The ground
is still moving.
That's just the way I felt.
So what do you think
of Washington?
It's grand.
We have been most
impressed with the work
you've been doing
in Tuskegee, Dr. Brodus.
Oh yes.
Davis, take
the doctor's bag.
Good work.
Your syphilis
treatment program
was a marvel.
Thank you.
It's a pity
the money dried up.
Not a pity.
It's a shame.
I'd call it a crime.
But we may have
a solution--
a new study,
which is why
we asked you up here,
besides wanting
of course to meet you
in person.
Would you like
a cool drink,
Dr. Brodus?
You had a long trip.
We've got some soda
in the office here.
Sure, thank you.
Are you aware of the Oslo
experiment, Dr. Brodus?
Oslo? No.
The venereal disease clinic
in Oslo, Norway,
published a very
interesting report.
Now they examined
several hundred men
with syphilis
and they came up
with fascinating data.
For example,
how many men died
with neurological
as compared
to cardiovascular--
Doctor, please, here.
Thank you.
Here's the report.
Take a look at it
There's an English
prcis in the back.
root beer, orange Crush,
I believe,
Dr. Brodus,
that we have
in Macon County
an extraordinary
They studied
only white people.
We believe
the Negro people
deserve the same chance
to be studied.
No, we need money
for treatment.
We can get money
for this.
The federal government
will pick up the whole tab--
not of course
the 1400 patients that
we've already been treating.
But we can study
400 men with syphilis,
200 non-contagious
as a control group.
No more depending
on outsiders.
Root beer
all right?
Fine, thank you.
We need your help.
We need Tuskegee.
Now you seem skeptical.
( chuckles )
maybe a little.
Sam, this is for real.
It's important to know
whether the Negro
reacts to syphilis
the same way as
the white man.
Well, suppose that race
doesn't make a difference
and that the Negro
reacts the same to syphilis
as the white man?
Well, we'll want
to know that too,
wouldn't we?
This is
science, after all.
We want the truth.
Regardless of race,
creed or color.
The stamping out
of disease--
that's what this office
is dedicated to,
for all the people,
Dr. Brodus, all of them.
And you want to repeat
the Norwegian study,
except with
the Negro male?
That's right.
Now we have additional--
But it says here
Oslo was done between
1891 and 1910.
That means there was
no treatment then.
These men were untreated.
They studied untreated men
with syphilis.
Yes, that's right.
No treatment?
How could we do that?
The only way to get
a pure result.
Uncontaminated by drugs
or other medicine.
That's the beauty of it.
The beauty of it?
The beauty of it?
I'm a doctor,
for God's sakes,
and so are you.
Our patients come
before anything else.
Do you think
I don't know that, Sam?
I've been agonizing
over this.
First, do no harm.
We're not talking
forever here.
Six months, maybe a year
to get the facts,
then we let the facts
speak for themselves.
This study will make
medical history.
It will wipe out
centuries of ignorance
about the mechanism
of disease being
related to race.
If we do this right,
I tell you,
we will get the money
for treatment,
federal money.
Do you really
believe that?
this is more than
just an opportunity
to keep our project
Think of it.
We will be
federally financed.
We'll have momentum.
You know what it's like
with federal programs
once they get started--
you can't stop them.
And you can build
Tuskegee into a major
research center
and finally prove what
Negro nurses and doctors
are capable of.
Now think of what good
you could do
with a program
like that.
We've already run out
of medicine.
Our patients aren't
being treated anyway.
This study is the only
chance we have.
And the men
would be studied
the same as at Oslo?
Exactly the same--
periodic examinations,
X-rays, bloodwork.
We do a spinal tap
to check for neurologic
We give them the works,
the very best we have.
But this is the only way
the results can be pure.
And what would
the study be called?
Exactly what it is--
"The Study
of Untreated Syphilis
in the Negro Male."
"The Tuskegee Study
of Untreated Syphilis
in the Negro Male."
( sighs )
This will bring us back
to treatment, Sam,
you'll see.
Hey, Janice.
You got the money.
Honey, you know better
than to run in this ward.
That's all right,
Nurse Parsons.
Ask them for the results
as quickly as possible.
Thank you.
You got the money.
You can start back
at work next week.
Oh my. Oh my my.
You actually got
those white people
to listen.
Dr. Douglas will be back
from Washington next week,
so I want you
to be ready to help him
with whatever he needs.
Doctor, I was born ready.
about the program--
I can't wait
to get started.
We'll be just studying them.
I've been studying.
I know all about studying.
We've been treating them.
We'll just be
studying them.
No treatment?
Not for syphilis.
This study will bring
the money for treatment
in about six months
to a year.
Well, what do
we tell the men?
What do we do?
I don't understand.
We've been giving them
the mercury rubs
and we just
don't do that?
Well, we'll continue
with the rubs,
but we'll be using liniment
instead of mercury.
They won't know
the difference.
And with
the additional money,
we'll give them
and tonic
and vitamins--
things they've never
had before.
I guarantee you,
they'll feel much
much better.
Until they don't.
I don't think
you heard me.
It won't be forever.
Just six months?
Or a year.
And they'd
be first in line
for the treatment?
I promise you.
All right,
young fellow,
this is gonna kill
the germs that are
making you sick.
Do you believe me?
Well, you'd better
believe me.
I'm the doctor.
Right, Nurse Evers?
Yes, Doctor.
And the doctor knows,
doesn't he?
Yes, he does.
And he cares.
Oh, yes.
So you'd better
believe me
when I tell you
that everything's
gonna be all right.
Right, Nurse?
Right, Doctor.
What are you doing up
this time of night?
Remember that job I got
offered in Birmingham--
nursing supervisor?
That was
a whole year ago.
Well, I'm writing to see
if it's still open.
Why are you doing that?
You're going back to work
right back here.
I don't know
if I want to.
You don't know
if you want to?
Eunice, what's the matter?
What's wrong?
It's as new program, Papa.
They're not gonna
treat the men.
Not for a while anyway,
at least six months,
and then they'll start back
when they get more money.
They're not gonna treat
the men, Papa.
Well, six months
ain't all that long.
You jump down, turn around,
six months have been gone.
Besides, they're the doctors,
ain't they?
You think you know
better than the doctors?
I think this is different.
Yes, this is different.
You're not gonna be cleaning
them toilets anymore.
I seen how it done
took all the pride
right out of you.
There are worse things
than cleaning toilets, Papa!
Each of us has got
to bear his burden
in the heat of the day.
You got your burden.
I got mine.
We do what the Lord
gives us to do.
( band playing )
( crowd exclaims )
Oh yeah! Oh yeah!
( song ends )
( cheering and applause )
How are y'all doing?
Let's go on inside.
All right now, we're here.
All right.
Here we are.
( chattering )
We did it.
Hey, Caleb,
why don't you and Miss Evers
have a seat right here?
I'll go over here
and get some shine,
be on back, all right?
Okay, sit down,
Miss Evers.
I see the joint,
but where's the juke?
Oh, the band is likely
taking a break.
It'll hot up
in a minute.
I see you got trouble
on your mind.
Give me five counts.
You a mind-reader,
Don't take a whole lot
of reading with you.
It's written
all over your face.
( quiet music playing )
I'm thinking
about leaving here.
Don't you want to know why,
or where, or when even?
I figured
you want to tell me--
you'll tell me.
There's a supervisor job
up in Birmingham.
I'm thinking
about taking it.
It's a step
up the ladder for me.
Cat got your tongue,
That ain't your
It's just that
we done got used to
having you back with us.
I was away for months,
and y'all did just fine.
But you was around.
We could count
on you if need be,
know where to find you.
You just don't
understand, huh?
I do. I do, Caleb.
I just--
some things you just
can't keep on doing,
on account of
you might get
twisted up in your mind.
What things?
The men gonna drown
without you.
Look here
what we got--
now this here is the best
shine in the county.
If this don't clean out
bad blood, nothing will.
( men laugh )
Here's to all of us.
We did good tonight, boys.
Yes sir.
Miss Evers' Boys.
All right, all right.
( music stops )
Damn it, gillee!
Gillee gillee gillee.
All: Gillee gillee.
Woman: Ooh! Come on!
Gillee gillee gillee
gillee gillee...
Come on, gillee gillee.
I see you.
Come on.
Do it.
Damn it. Ooh!
Gillee, come on,
come on, gillee.
( laughing )
Pick it up,
come on, hey hey hey!
Dance it out,
Come on.
Come on, Miss Evers.
Go. Go, Eunice.
( all encouraging )
Get on up, yeah.
Willie: Gillee gillee.
Caleb: There you go.
Oh, look out now.
There she goes.
Yeah yeah.
Come on, work it.
Work it, work it.
Oh, yeah.
Caleb: Ooh.
( insects chirping )
I knew I wasn't
going anywhere.
I knew that night
that I would never leave.
So we picked out 412 men
and started over.
This time around
the government gave us
all the money we needed.
First we'll do some
baseline bloodwork
to screen out contagion.
Only the men with nothing
but syphilis
will be considered
for this study.
Then we'll follow up
with spinal taps.
There may be a problem there.
A lot of men don't know
what a spinal tap is,
and if they think
it's not treatment,
they won't come in.
Well, they have
to come in.
We have to make them believe
that nothing has changed.
Are there any ideas?
What about you, Nurse Evers?
You always seem to have
the answer.
Oh, I don't
even know, Doctor.
Well, Nurse Evers,
I'm relying on you.
If this program
is to be a success,
we must all put
our best foot forward.
Back shots.
What's that?
Tell them it's back shots.
They know about shots.
We've given them injections.
If we call them back shots,
they'll think it's part
of the treatment.
Okay, so we'll give them
back shots.
( playing tune
on harmonica )
I don't want you
to worry, Willie.
Nurse Evers is here
to take care of you.
Eunice: Mm-hmm.
It's very important
that you don't move,
especially once the needle
has entered the spinal canal.
My what?
It's a part of your back.
Don't fret.
Okay, now you mustn't
move then,
because the needle
could damage the nerves
that go into your legs.
Oh no, I can't do it.
See, I need my legs, Miss Evers.
No no, Willie.
No, Miss Evers, I need
my legs to dance on.
I can't do this.
That's why it's important
for you to lay still now.
You'll be up
and hopping around in no time.
Willie, lay down, come on.
It's gonna be okay,
Just don't move.
I'll be right here with you.
Come on, relax.
Here's to clean you up
a little bit.
Listen to that music.
That is so sweet.
It must be Hodman playing.
( chuckles )
You know, Dr. Douglas,
we got the best
harmonica player
in the South
right here in Alabama.
Now you don't say.
Ain't that true?
Hey, how come
that needle's so big?
I ain't never seen no needle
that color, Miss Evers.
That's a gold needle.
Lay down.
It's real gold?
It's real gold,
Ain't nothing too good
for the colored.
Don't move, Willie.
Okay, now take
a deep breath.
( screams )
( music stops )
Go, gillee gillee
gillee gillee.
Go, gillee.
Step, turn, jump.
Yes, Willie, yes.
( screams )
Very important
to stay still, Willie.
( screams )
( grunts )
( Willie screams )
All right,
we got it.
It's okay.
That's okay.
Look, there.
You did good.
Yes, come on, breathe.
Come on, it's over.
It's over.
You're a brave man,
Willie Johnson.
You're a champ,
you know that?
You're a real champ.
I guess I scared
them all away.
I guess you're gonna
have to round them
all up again, huh?
I guess I do.

Steal away
Steal away
To Jesus
Steal away...
My granddaddy
was a slave
and they buried him
just like that.
Now slaves are free,
and we are still
burying them in bags.
How are we gonna
bring them back, Nurse?
I know they're scared
and-- and--
they already have
enough pain in their lives,
but we have to get them
to see that it's for
their own good.
Maybe if we trusted enough
to tell the truth.
We made a decision,
a wise decision.
Now they will get
( laughs )
But first we have
to get them back.
And how are we
gonna do that?
Oh, come on now,
you always have
good ideas.
Sometimes I don't.
Steal away home
I ain't got long...
( women sobbing )
To stay
What about money?
Give them each
some money--
Bribe them back?
It's life insurance,
so they can be buried
in a coffin
instead of a feed bag.
I can always count
on you, can't I?
The burial money
got them back all right,
all but Caleb.
I thought sure he was gonna
move north, like he said.
All this belonged
to your brother?
Owned it
free and clear too.
So are you still thinking
about leaving here?
( chuckles )
No, I ain't thinking
about leaving here no more.
Well, you can't leave
until you finish
your treatment.
I ain't thinking about
no treatment either.
Your family is here,
I guess.
I ain't thinking about
my family neither.
I'm thinking about
you and me,
Caleb and Eunice.
Mm, I like that name--
I don't.
Never did.
It's got
a "nice" in it.
You nice, Eunice.
Real nice.
Wait, now you told me
I was all right,
wasn't nothing
I couldn't do.
You are.
You didn't just tell me that
'cause of something you don't
want me to know, did you?
No, it's not you.
Look here, Eunice,
we can't keep teasing
like we're still
in school now.
If you don't want me,
I can handle it.
I want you, Caleb.
You know that.
I'm on a different road
is all.
Ain't no road we can't
take together, woman.
See, I can't be
with you
and have a lie
in my heart.
What lie?
Come on now.
Tell me what lie.
I-- I can't.
You can't?
That's it? That's all
you got to say-- you can't?
You fixing to throw us away
for something you can't
even tell me?
Caleb, I care about you.
No, when you care
about somebody,
you're out in the open
with them.
Now you call it
something else.
I don't know what else
to call it.
It sound like you're
calling it goodbye.
I'm sorry.
You're sorry.
First you can't,
now you're sorry.
You're sorry
because you can't.
Two words.
That's all we are
to you-- two words?
I can't tell you
any more.
Yeah well,
I hope what
you're getting
is better than
what you're giving up.
And the years went on.
They had said
that there would be
treatment in six months.
But the six months
became a year,
and a year became two,
and then six,
and we were
just waiting.
And all that time,
Miss Evers,
you kept the secret?
You never told any of the men
what was being done to them?
Oh, I wanted
to tell them.
I surely did.
I just wanted
to tell them straight out,
"You're not being treated,
but you have to stick with it,
so when the money
comes through, you'll be
the first in line."
But they said that the men
wouldn't understand
and then they'd be lost
to the program forever,
and none of us
wanted that, Senator.
So we-- we rubbed them
with liniment
instead of the mercury.
We gave them aspirins
and vitamins
and everything.
And, you know,
before you know it,
how time passes.
It was--
10 years had passed
and the men just
hadn't had treatment.
But we kept on
studying them.
But, Miss Evers,
isn't it true
that as early as 1942,
penicillin had become
widely available
as an effective treatment
for syphilis.
Now wasn't this made known
to you in the study?
Yes, we knew it.
But there were other
medical concerns, Senator.
You mix it with saline solution
and then you give it
by injection.
Now tell the men
that it stings.
Actually it hurts
like hell...
so maybe we should
just go ahead and tell
them the truth.
We do that
once in a while.
Looks like gold.
Well, it's more
precious than gold.
It saves lives.
Now I want to use this
for the blood poisoning
case first,
then the pneumonia case,
and then--
When will our men
get it?
Well, we're
still studying that,
but with syphilis
there are potentially
some very dangerous
side effects.
But they'll get it?
We could mix this
with distilled water,
but I prefer
saline solution.
Now there are
a million units
in each bottle,
which means we'll have
to work out the dosage
for each case.
Thank you, Nurse.
Thank you.
Excuse me.
Doctor, could you
look at these, please?

( cheering and applause )
Where's Caleb?
He ain't been to
the clinic all week.
Oh, you know Caleb now.
Sometimes-- he just
takes off sometimes.
He's gonna be here.
He'd better be.
We're going on soon.
Oh oh man.
What's that?
Willie, you all right?
Ben: What's wrong
with you, Willie?
What's wrong?
My legs, man, my legs.
What's wrong with them?
Oh oh man.
I'm sorry, Miss Evers.
I didn't mean to holler
out like that.
You're in pain,
it's okay to holler.
Oh man.
Just all of a sudden
my legs just
give way on me.
Willie, we've got
to have you.
I'm scared.
I'm scared, Miss Evers.
I'm losing it.
I'm losing it.
No no.
I know I'm losing it.
Don't say that, Willie.
You the star
attraction, Willie.
Right, Willie.
See, if you lose it,
we all gonna lose.
You're okay, Willie.
It's going.
It's going!
No no, it's not.
Come on, Willie.
Shh shh.
You can't be
thinking like that.
Let me work on these legs.
Now what you do is,
you drink your quart
of that tea
at the beginning
of the month--
you'll be just fine.
You'll be double-fly
stepping in no time at all.
Yes, you will.
He needs
some new doctor.
What are you doing
in that costume?
Ain't no costume.
It's a uniform.
You joined
the army?
I figured it's my war
just like it is theirs.
I know what you're
thinking, Nurse.
You want to know
how I got in
with bad blood, huh?
Got me one of them
penicillin shots.
You get one of them in you,
that Wassermann test don't
show nothing bad.
The army couldn't wait
to take a fine specimen
like me.
You're just gonna
get yourself killed.
Well, at least I get
killed for something.
That's what he needs--
one of them penicillin shots.
He's getting
the best of care.
( song ends )
( cheering and applause )
Yeah! Yeah!
That's right.
And now, from Macon County,
Miss Evers' Boys!
That's us.
You hear me, Nurse?
The way you're talking
to her like that, Caleb,
what is wrong with you?
'Cause you got on
a uniform?
Miss Evers, you done
rubbed all the pain
out of me.
Ain't nothing standing
between me and my ticket
to the Cotton Club.
Hey, Caleb, are you
coming with us?
It's what I'm here for.
All right.
( cheering and applause )
Watch yourself.
( screams )
( band stops playing )
That's all right.
That's all right.
Come on, Willie.
Come on.
( band resumes playing )
( stops playing )
( resumes )
They have to have
I'm afraid we can't
allow that.
Why not?
How long do these men
have to wait around?
First in line,
that's what you said.
That's what you told me.
That was the promise.
Now there's a drug
that can help and--
Penicillin cannot
undo the damage that's
already been done.
It could keep them
from getting worse.
It may also kill them.
Some chronic syphilitics
suffer a fatal allergic
reaction to penicillin.
It's called
the Herxheimer reaction.
Now that's been proven.
Washington's doing a study
right now to determine
the degree of risk.
They're giving it
all over the county.
Caleb Humphries got it.
He's fine.
He's in the goddamn army!
Excuse my language.
Dr. Douglas:
Caleb was lucky.
Yes, penicillin
is very effective
in primary
and secondary cases,
but for those
who have entered
the tertiary stage,
like the men in our study,
it cannot cure
and it may also kill.
For those men,
the study needs to go
to the endpoint.
We already have
10 years of data.
10 years is not
the endpoint.
What is then?
We have to validate
our facts
through autopsy,
Nurse Evers.
That is the endpoint.
That will make it science,
not guesswork.
We-- we're gonna wait
for them to die?
Science is sometimes
a hard taskmaster,
Nurse Evers.
You think I like
not treating them? No.
But we have to finish
the study.
We have a chance
to make history here.
Let me talk to her.
Once when I was doing
my residency
back home, up north,
I had to do
two autopsies
at the same time--
two young men lying
next to one another,
one white,
one colored.
And I got the hearts
mixed up.
I didn't know
which went in where.
And I remember
holding onto those hearts
for a long time
and examining
every detail.
And then finally
I just closed my eyes,
put a heart
in each body
and then just
sewed them up--
that simple.
Forget about
making history.
Think about
making change,
change in the way
people think,
pushing past the hate,
pushing past the idea
of difference.
We're showing
once and for all,
through the nobility
of scientific proof,
that when it comes
to disease,
we're all the same.
Dr. Brodus, why do I feel
like I'm being taken up
over the hill?
How's that?
It's when somebody says,
"Do you see that hill there?
You just gotta climb
that hill."
And when you get
up that hill,
you see there's another hill
beyond, even higher.
And they they say,
"See, that's the top
right up there."
And so you climb again.
And sure enough,
you get there and there's
another hill.
And by then you have
just come so far,
you figure
you might as well go on
the rest of the way.
That's being taken up
over the hill, Dr. Brodus.
you come of your own
free will.
I thought
I was doing good.
You are.
You are doing good.
Don't ever let go
of that.
You're doing good
for those men
and you are doing good
for the Negro people.
Why can't I
look them in the face
without crying?
We all want to cry,
but we have to be strong.
And you are
a strong woman.
And I know that
you'll do what you are
called to do, Nurse Evers.
Come on, Willie.
Excuse me, Nurse,
we're here to get this man
a penicillin shot.
Willie Johnson.
Can't help you.
Why not?
on the list.
What list
is that, ma'am?
The Tuskegee study--
no penicillin allowed.
How come I can't get a shot
like Caleb got a shot?
I want--
I mean, I come--
Never mind, Willie.
Come on, we'll just go
somewhere else.
Won't help.
They sent the list
to everybody.
Why they ain't
give me no shot?
Don't worry about it now.
We're gonna go down here...
I mean, I ain't never
done nothing to nobody.
But you got a place?
Yeah, I'm gonna
carry you over there now.
What did you do?
They don't want to give me
the penicillin in here.
Caleb's gonna
take me to a place
where I can get it.
Go on up in there.
They say I'm on
some kind of list.
Don't worry about it.
Oh, Willie, that shot
could have kill you.
I'm still standing.
You're just lucky.
Penicillin could be
dangerous for him.
Well, why me and not him?
You're different.
I don't know.
Nobody knows.
But we can't
take that chance.
Listen to me, Willie.
It could have exploded
your heart.
Caleb, you ain't
said nothing about
my heart exploding.
He don't know.
I know.
You go ahead on
with her, Willie.
But, Caleb, you said
you were gonna take me
to get the penici--
Never mind about what I said.
Now go ahead on with her.
Willie, it's for
your own good.
She's gonna see to it
you don't get it nowhere.
Yeah, I know,
the doctors know best.
Boy, they got a good one
when they found you, Nurse.
I got a train
to catch anyhow.
( starts engine )
Don't get
yourself shot.
I'll be lucky if they
let me near a gun.
Hey, Willie.
You dance them down,
you hear?
Bye, Caleb.
He's a good man,
Miss Evers.
Yeah, he is.
Miss Evers.
Ben is feeling poorly.
I know.
He's got trouble
with his eyes
and his legs too.
Now that only leaves me
and Hodman for the gillee.
Hey, Miss Evers.
You think I'm still gonna
make it to the Cotton Club?
I'm gonna get me a new hat
and sit right up on
the front row.
You telling me
I'm gonna see you
through this, Willie,
you hear me?
I ain't left you yet,
and I'm not leaving
you now.
We're gonna see this
through together.
Hey, you know,
I've been thinking.
You know about
the Cotton Club.
Know what?
They don't allow
no coloreds
in the audience,
only on the stage.
I guess I'll just
get me a chair
and sit up there
on the stage.
I had heard that Caleb
had been sent overseas,
but a long time went by
with no word from him,
so I had started
to think
that he'd gotten
himself killed.
I did my best,
but the men
got steadily worse.
Hey now, hey now...
The disease took
their bodies
and their minds.
Hodman: Hey now...
Hodman started thinking
he could cure himself.
We're gonna do this now.
Hey now, hey now.
We're gonna
do this now.
Hey now, hey now.
Hey there.
What you doing
out here, Miss Evers?
Looking for you.
Where is your family?
They're gone
to my mama's.
They say I ain't no good
for them like this.
You need to come in
for your treatment,
you and them
friends of yours.
I gots my own treatment
right here, Miss Evers.
Just burn these
and look hard
into the smoke.
It's good
for the eyesight too.
That sounds fine to me.
But seems like it'd be
twice as powerful
if you do that
and the treatment.
They work together,
kind of feeding
one another.
You think so, huh?
I know so.
Twice as powerful?
Come on.
Come on back
with me now.
You done blown
enough smoke for today.
As bad as Hodman was,
Ben was the first
to fall.
( coughing )
( wheezing )
Hello, Ben.
Miss Evers?
Now don't tell me
you don't recognize
your old girlfriend.
How are you doing?
( hoarsely )
I guess I'm dying,
Miss Evers,
the way these people
are all tiptoeing
all around me all the time.
You ain't dead yet, Ben.
You're a tough customer.
I just feel
all wore down
all the time, Miss Evers.
Well, I got something
to raise you right up.
It's from the United States
It's for me?
Mm-hmm, you and all
the other men.
It is a certificate
of appreciation
and 10 whole dollars.
A dollar
for every year
you've been
in the program.
They paying us for having
the bad blood?
They're showing
their appreciation
for what you boys done.
I ain't done nothing,
Miss Evers,
except get sick.
You know, I ain't had
this much cash money
since we got that
$50 for the burial.
( wheezing )
I'm going blind too.
Ain't that a treat?
Nothing more you can do
for me, is there?
We tried everything
we can.
I know you have.
There ain't a day
that go by--
We all know, Miss Evers.
Hey, you see,
you didn't
make us sick.
And you done
all that you can
to make us well.
You can't do no more
than that, Miss Evers.
You're gonna be
okay, Ben.
No, I ain't, Miss Evers.
But I appreciate
you saying it.
Miss Evers.
You wait till you see
that coffin
old Ben done picked out
for hisself.
Oh, it's red,
it's blue,
it's green,
it's yellow.
It's a doozy,
Miss Evers.
( sobs )
You're gonna be
real proud.
You're gonna be so proud.
What are you
doing now?
What does it look
like I'm doing?
Do you know
what time it is?
You're keeping me awake
with all that chopping.
You always say
you can't sleep anyway.
Well, tonight I was sleeping,
sleeping good.
If you're mad
about something,
don't take it out
on the wood.
Go after what
you're mad about.
Ben's dead, Papa.
Hodman's going insane.
I'm mad at the world.
Well, you ain't gonna
fix it chopping wood.
All you're gonna do is
keep me up all night.
Suppose there's
nothing else you can do.
If you believed that,
you'd never become a nurse
in the first place.
I'm gonna get me
some milk.
You want some?
Be sure to warm it.
( man moaning )
( knocks )
Hello, Hodman.
What you got there?
You gonna peel the paint
off of something?
I'm making me
some new medicine.
Yeah? I hear turps is
good for moles,
but I got
something new.
For me?
I thought
you didn't want us
taking that stuff.
Well, I think you
need it now, Hodman.
I do think
you need it.
Them haints
you've been seeing--
I don't want them
bothering you.
You think
they ain't there.
I think you need
But now I gotta
warn you, you could
have a bad reaction.
Chances are
you won't,
but you gotta
know that going in.
You think
I should do it?
As long as you know
what you're doing.
You know what
you're doing, Hodman?
Do you understand
what I'm saying?
Yeah yeah.
How bad that
bad reaction?
It's bad enough.
But I'm gonna stay
right here with you.
If you're okay
after 12 hours,
you're free
and clear.
All right.
Just tell me
what I gotta do.
( rooster crows )
( Hodman chanting )
( trilling )
( barking )
No, Hodman, don't drink it!
It's poison!
( screams )
Hodman, come on.
Come on.
Oh God.
Come on.
It's good medicine,
Miss Evers,
Come on.
It's all gone now.
Yeah, baby
skipped on home.
I told you.
( laughing )
Come on, Hodman.
Yes, Miss Evers.
( gasping breaths )
Come on, Hodman!
Stand up.
Come on.
Stand up, come on.
( screaming )
Come on, come on,
Oh my God.
I'm gonna get you
some help.
Come on, just hang on.
I'm gonna get you some help.
Hang on.
I killed him.
What you might expect--
he died from swallowing
32 ounces of turpentine.
But there were
certain other elements
consistent with
the Herxheimer reaction.
What other elements?
Nothing you could
prove out for sure.
But the penicillin
could have killed him.
Well, there's no
real proof,
just an indication.
Officially I'm calling it
death by self-inflicted
But you know
what you did.
Stealing medicine--
you go to jail
for that.
Giving that man
that injection
violated the protocol
of the study.
It could have
disgraced the institute.
I wasn't thinking
about the study.
Well, I have to,
Nurse Evers!
I know that there are people
just waiting out there
for us to fail,
hoping that we will fail,
so they can keep saying
that Negroes are stupid,
good for nothing,
But I'm willing
to forget what you did.
The man was in a state
of dementia.
It was just
a matter of time.
You are their nurse,
Miss Evers.
Doctor, we're sacrificing them
for something I can't even
stand up for.
Yes! Yes, we are.
I can't keep looking
in their faces.
For reasons they will
never understand,
for reasons
that are greater
than any one of them,
the greater good
for the race!
I am not going up
over that next hill.
Oh yeah?
Where are you gonna go?
They don't just let us go
where it's nice and flat.
It's all hills for us.
We either climb or we
stay at the bottom.
That's the only choice
they give us!
Now you knew that
when you became part
of the program.
Now if you want to leave,
that's your privilege.
But the men
will miss you.
( door slams )
I stayed.
I didn't back out.
I went up over
that next hill.
And sure enough,
there was another hill
after that,
and another.
You see, Senator,
they still needed
my help.
I couldn't save them,
but there were things
that I could do for them,
things that I owed them--
simple comforts,
like knowing that
somebody cared.
The war ended
and we went right on
taking care of them.
Lying, yes,
but taking care.
Willie: Hey, Miss Evers.
Come on, Doc, tell her
where you've been.
You know
where he's been?
I know.
He's been up north.
He went back
to the Cotton Club.
The Cotton Club?
I had to go to a meeting
in New York,
so I thought I'd stop in
and get old Willie
a report.
Say he saw
Ruby Blue.
Ruby Blue?
He saw him?
Say he was scatting
and leaping
and doing
the stair dance.
( scatting )
( men murmuring )
Isn't that right, Doc?
Like that?
Well, sort of.
What do you mean,
sort of?
What was he doing
that was different?
Well, he was moving
both feet
in different rhythms
at the same time,
kind of like this.
( men laugh )
That's all right.
So he was like
two different people
dancing on
the same legs?
Man, that's nice.
That's new.
Hey, I could use that.
Where do they got stairs
around here?
Oh, I know.
Yeah. Excuse me, Doc.
That was nice of you.
But he shouldn't
be doing stairs.
He might hurt hisself.
( Willie scatting )
I'm okay, Doc.
I'm all right.
I'm all right.
Just... here.
Are you okay?
I just need time, Doc.
I understand.
I just need
a little more time.
I'll get it, you know.
I understand.
Why don't you take
a little rest now?
Come on.
Hey, Doc.
What did you say--
that he was dancing
on different rhythms
on different legs
at the same time?
That's right.
Well, you just about
had it there.
Oh, come on now, Doc,
I ain't have it like that.
Hey, but you know,
you didn't dance too bad.
Oh, go on.
Hey, let me see you
cut a step.
Go on, cut one.
Go ahead.
( laughs )
How was that?
( laughing loudly )
You're a better doctor
than you are a dancer.
( dogs barking )
( chickens clucking )
( children chattering )
( gate opens )
You need some new tires
on your car.
There's a war on.
Yeah, I heard.
I see you got yourself
some medals.
They ain't really
They just tell
where I've been.
Sicily, Italy.
You know, they got
colored folks in Africa.
You're joshing me.
No, colored all over.
You're looking good,
You look good too,
You back here
for good now?
No. Corinna's kids
grown enough
to look after the place
their own self now.
You just come back
to see them?
I come back for you.
You know,
most folks think
that the war is
and shooting,
carrying on.
It really ain't nothing
but a whole bunch
of sitting around,
I did a whole lot
of thinking while
I was over there, see.
They say thinking's
good for the soul.
I thought a lot
about you and me
and how we messed it up,
how I let you get away.
No, you didn't let me.
I did it, Caleb.
It was a mistake
is what it was.
We all make mistakes.
Come on now, Eunice.
Don't go skating around
on me now. Listen.
I don't want us to make
the same mistake again.
Caleb, we haven't
seen each other
for five years.
I haven't heard from you
in five years.
I'm back now.
That's all that counts.
I got a job up north,
soon as I get discharged,
a steel-making plant
outside of Chicago.
A platoon buddy of mine
got me in the unit.
Now they got hospitals
all around Chicago.
You could get a job.
They always need nurses.
We could have a real
nice life, Eunice.
Give me a minute here.
I'll say one thing for you,
Caleb Humphries,
you know how to lay it
on a girl.
Here, feel this.
I got the palpitations.
You want to sit down?
I can't.
What, you can't?
You still saying
that to me?
I can't leave here.
You could stay.
No, I can't.
Not even for you.
My life here
is over, Eunice.
I got to go somewhere
where I got a chance.
Now I want you
to come with me.
How long
has it been now?
10, 12 years?
You've done all you could.
Eunice, nobody could do
more than what you've done.
You've been there for them
day and night.
The program's not finished.
There's a lot of work--
What more can you do?
I can be here
for them.
And watch them die,
is that it?
Holding their hands
till they go blind,
purple or crazy?
Put your hat on
for funerals?
Remember what you said once?
You said that the men would
drown without me.
They're dying with you.
Ain't no more
Miss Evers' Boys.
Miss Evers' Boys
is through.
Ain't nothing holding you
here, woman.
You just don't know
what it's like.
What I got to know?
I know I want you
with me.
I know you want
to be with me.
Known it
all these years.
Eunice, we've been
foolish to stay apart.
Why? 'Cause your
daddy's looking?
All he's gonna see is
that his little girl's
a grown woman.
Mm-- hmm-mm.
What did you prove,
That you want me.
I have always
wanted you.
Then come north with me
and let's make a life
I can't.
I owe them, Caleb.
You paid already.
You don't owe--
No, I could never
pay them enough.
We missed something
real good, didn't we?
All right.
Best go see what time
my train is leaving.
I am so happy
you didn't
get yourself killed.
Me too.
How come we didn't
get it, Eunice--
the penicillin?
You were a part
of a government study.
That ain't no answer.
No, the study was
the proof that--
the doctors--
they needed the pr--
the doctors
are dedicated
and they know
what's best.
The best was penicillin.
( sobs )
Go after him, Eunice.
Go on.
What are you hanging
around here for?
Taking care
of an old man
is no life for you.
You're still
a young woman.
And don't tell me
you're staying back here
because you're a nurse.
They have nursing
up north too.
You've got a chance
here, Eunice.
He's a good man.
All those medals
on his chest.
And you're still
soft for him.
I can see it.
I can--
Leave me alone, Papa.
I ain't left you alone
since you was a baby.
How do you expect me
to start now?
You got a lot
of life left, Eunice.
Don't let it all
get away.
I can't. I can't, Papa.
You can if you will.
I can't. I can't.
I cannot.
You always tell me to do
what's right, don't you?
Well, what I'm doing
is right.
it's got to be
right, Papa.
It was right.
It had to be right.
The men kept dying.
But they would have died
anyway, wouldn't they?
I prepared a report
every spring
on the number of them
412 in 1946,
360 ten years later.
And then last year
when the papers
got ahold to the story,
it was 127 left.
( crowd murmuring )
Of the 412
that we started with,
127 were left.
And of Miss Evers' Boys,
it was just two.
That's Willie and...
I had heard
that he got the job
up north.
He never married.
So that brings us
to Washington, DC.
I guess none of us
ended up where we thought
we would.
I simply don't understand,
Miss Evers.
Much as we may appreciate
your personal sacrifice,
the fact remains
that patients
with a potentially
fatal disease
went untreated
when treatment
was available.
It was for
the greater good.
Whose good, Miss Evers?
Who has benefited?
We proved that
there's no difference
between how black and whites
respond to syphilis.
The benefit of the--
If they were white,
Miss Evers,
if they were white,
would these men
have been treated
as they were?
You should know
better than anyone.
Yes, I do, Senator.
If they had been white,
your Public Health Service
would never have agreed
to do this study
in the first place.
They wouldn't have dared.
If they had been white,
you congressmen
wouldn't have voted
every year for 40 years.
If they had been white,
somebody would have said
something before now,
because everybody
knew what was going on.
It wasn't no secret.
But because they were black,
nobody cared.
Because they
were black, you,
the U.S. government,
thought that they were
Now you're trying to push
the blame off on me
and the fine doctors
who did the best we could
for the choice
you gave us to make--
whether to leave those men
in neglect
or to give them the best care
that was within our power
to give them.
Nursing them men
was my life, mister.
We're not trying
to blame you, Miss Evers.
We understand you were
acting under orders--
orders from Dr. Brodus
and the others.
I went up that hill
on my own.
I can carry
the weight of the burden
by myself.
But, Miss Evers,
what in the world
did you think
you were doing?
Honoring my oath
as a nurse, Senator.
I loved those men.
They were susceptible
to kindness.
And I gave them
all that I had.
Gillee gillee
gillee gillee.
Gillee gillee.
Oh, gillee gillee.
Gillee gillee
You sure could dance.
( continues
muttering )
Your feet went faster
than the music.
( chuckles )
Gillee gillee gillee.
Oh, come on.
Dancing's over.
Come on.
I was dancing on the stairs
just like Ruby Blue.
( Willie scatting )
( woman vocalizing )
Show me
If there's a way
Show me
I can't see
And I can't hide
My sorrow
If there's a way out
Won't you show me
And if there's a heaven
Would you take me
If there's a heaven
Don't forsake me
Oh, there's no place
To run
You know everything
That I've done
If there's a heaven
Would you still take me