Captain America in the 1940s and 50s

March 4th, 2019

Lateef Martin, an experienced speaker on race and comics in the early Cold War era, will be invited to speak to History students on this subject. The students will be asked to read Truth: Red, White and Black. It’s the story of a black soldier who was experimented on to become the very first Captain America-before Steve Rogers-and parallels the Tuskeegee experiment that happened to black people. Lateef will talk about the comic and how comics and fantastical stories are great tools in tackling important subjects regarding politics, discrimination and more. This would contribute not only to the content of the course, but also to the possibility of making it more racially diverse. Lateef identifies as a black man and would be a good role model for the students.

Project Update

Lateef Martin spoke on March 4, 2019, about comic books in the the Cold War. An important figure throughout the Cold War was Captain America, but Marvel has recently produced an alternative comic based on the Tuskagee Syphilis Experiments which were conducted on black soldiers between 1932 and 1972. They were told that they were receiving free health care, when in actual fact they were being studied by the US Public Health Service. In the 1940s, despite the discovery that penicillin was a viable treatment for syphilis, these patients were not treated so that researchers could watch the disease develop unimpeded. The Marvel comic Truth: Red, Black and White took this story, making super-serum experiments lead to mutation and death, unlike super powers for the white counterpart. The students found the talk inspiring, and appreciated Martin's capacity to talk frankly about race then and now. The room was packed with students from two 20th Century history classes.

Last Modified: March 18, 2019