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The Organ Thieves

The Shocking Story of the First Heart Transplant in the Segregated South

Read by JD Jackson

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks meets Get Out in this “startling…powerful” (Kirkus Reviews) investigation of racial inequality at the core of the heart transplant race.

In 1968, Bruce Tucker, a black man, went into Virginia’s top research hospital with a head injury, only to have his heart taken out of his body and put into the chest of a white businessman. Now, in The Organ Thieves, Pulitzer Prize–nominated journalist Chip Jones exposes the horrifying inequality surrounding Tucker’s death and how he was used as a human guinea pig without his family’s permission or knowledge.

The circumstances surrounding his death reflect the long legacy of mistreating African Americans that began more than a century before with cadaver harvesting and worse. It culminated in efforts to win the heart transplant race in the late 1960s. Featuring years of research and fresh reporting, along with a foreword from social justice activist Ben Jealous, “this powerful book weaves together a medical mystery, a legal drama, and a sweeping history, its characters confronting unprecedented issues of life and death under the shadows of centuries of racial injustice” (Edward L. Ayers, author of The Promise of the New South).

Photograph by Jay Paul.

Chip Jones has been reporting for nearly thirty years for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Roanoke Times, Virginia Business magazine, and other publications. As a reporter for The Roanoke Times, he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his work on the Pittston coal strike. He is the former communications director of the Richmond Academy of Medicine, which is where he first discovered the heart-stopping story in The Organ Thieves.

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