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The Parallels between Michael Jackson, Arthur Wright, and Emily Juana Burke, Part 2 of 2

April 17, 2012

In this post, I will show you some articles that I found about Dr. Stolar’s revolutionary treatments for vitiligo, as well as highlight one of his very first patients, Emily Juan Burke!

Now, here are some articles on Dr. Stolar! This first on is from the December 1960 issue of Time Magazine!

Medicine: Making Negroes White

Monday, Dec. 12, 1960

Vitiligo, or “piebald skin,” is a disease that can be badly disfiguring in Negroes. It is characterized by smooth, light-colored patches of skin from which the natural pigment has disappeared. When it attacks the face, vitiligo sometimes produces a mottled, owlish visage. Victims usually cover the splotches with makeup or, in desperation, resort to tattooing—which rarely helps. Georgetown University’s Dr. Robert Stolar last week announced that he got dramatic results from treating vitiliginous Negroes with a drug called monobenzyl ether of hydroquinone (MBEHQ). The drug’s effect; it turns Negro skin white.

Spread daily on the body in the form of an ointment, MBEHQ interferes with formation of the natural skin pigment. It works only on Negroes who already exhibit telltale light splotches of vitiligo therefore have a demonstrated tendency toward depigmentation. Dr. Stolar reported that he had successfully treated more than 300 vitiliginous patients, many of whom chose to use the ointment only on small areas of their skin. But 16 patients who decided to try MBEHO more extensively, Dr. Stolar said, have achieved almost total body depigmentation, which presumably will last as long as they continue using the drug.,9171,871924,00.html

Here’s a newspaper article from December 1960!

The Sumter Daily Item

December 5th, 1960

Pigmented Negro Skin Made White

By Frank Carey

WASHINGTON (AP) – A Washington skin specialist said today that certain individual Negroes who have abnormally pigmented skin containing white blotches can be given “quite natural” all-white skin by means of drug treatment.

Dr. Robert Stolar of Georgetown University reported he has had some degree of success in 16 of 300 cases treated with that aim over the past 10 years, and in most of the 16 the natural all-white appearance has been achieved.

He stressed that the technique offers no possibility of converting normal Negro skin into white, except for a very temporary period.

In a report to the American Medical Association’s annual clinical meeting, amplified in an interview, the doctor said he and his associates have also treated some 200 white people for the same abnormal skin condition which is manifested by “a bizarre pattern of brown skin with whitish blotches.”

In the cases of white people, however, the skin was repigmented instead of depigmented, as in the case of the Negroes – so that the white patients acquired a deep tan.

Stolar said the abnormal skin condition in both races is known as “vitiligo” – and results from an inability of one of the body’s basic amino acids called tyrosin to be properly converted into melanin, the chemical which normally produces pigmentation of skin.

Cause of this body chemistry abnormality is as unknown, he said.,4787872

Here is article about a vitiligo victim from all the way back in 1936!

Medicine: Whitened White

Monday, Dec. 07, 1936

In Columbia, S. C. fortnight ago Will Pickens White, an obscure piebald, pursed-mouthed Negro of 68, leaped from his bed yelling: “Jesus, my God, what is this!” Night before Will Pickens White had taken a bath. This morning his entire skin was as dead white as a flounder’s belly.

To newshawks who last week investigated the “miracle,” Mr. White told a tale which doctors recognized as the history of a case of vitiligo, a harmless but mysterious skin condition which an occasional Negro develops. “About 30 years ago I had a little pimple on my forehead,” said Will White. “I went to the barber shop and got some medicine to get rid of the pimple. Next morning I woke up with pimples all over my face. The medicine wasn’t no good. The pimples kept coming and going. When they’d go they’d leave a white spot.” The blotching spread until it brought about the depigmentation suddenly observed by Will White after his bath.

Piebaldness in Negroes is no rarity. It has sometimes been checked by doses of gold or arsenic compounds but hardly ever cured because no researcher has yet satisfactorily established the constitutional cause of the discoloration of a Negro’s skin.

Negroes who want to hide their markings daub themselves with black coffee, potassium permanganate solution or dilute iodine. Will Pickens White last week indicated that he would never tint his whiteness. Said he: “God intended to let people know what He could do. Now that I am white, I would rather stay that way.”,9171,757092,00.html

Here is another newspaper article from September 1968 that where Dr. Stolar discusses his revolutionary vitiligo treatment. Pay attention to the very last paragraph!

Another Kind of Pill in the News

Experiments quietly under way in two American cities hold out the prospect of a bizarre solution to the race problem:

This is a pill that will lighten the color of Negro skin to the point where a Negro could pass as white.

One of the research workers, Dr. Robert Stolar, who began his experiments 22 years ago as a member of the Washington health department, claims he has turned 55 Negroes “white”.

A more ambitious, but less publicized research program with a similar aim is proceeding at the Yale-New Haven medical center under the direction of dermatology section of Yale University’s School of Medicine.

Dr. Stolar reveals that he has been approached by about 200 Negro men and women eager to undergo treatment to whiten their skin permanently.

He was accepted only those suffering from a condition known as vitiligo, in which Negro skin turned blotchily white, particularly around a healing wound.

Dr. Stolar uses an ointment of ether monobenzyl of hydroquinone which, he claimed, is many times more effective than the skin “bleaches” advertised in Negro magazines in the United States.

He is convinced that a pill, possibly containing a derivative of the chemical he has been using, will someday be developed to permit Negroes to whiten their skins quickly, safely and relatively cheaply.

It would be quite a blow to people who think Negroes as inferior to have a Negro able to switch colors with them”, said Dr. Lerner.,3147545

Here is an article from February 2012 about the dangers of using the “skin bleaching” creams that are marketed to the black community! (This is only a short excerpt; please open the link to read the entire article!)

Health officials warn skin lightening creams from outside US can be hazardous

Some African-Americans and people of color around the world use skin lightening creams to bleach their skin and fade dark spots. Yet officials are finding that particular skin lightening creams from outside the U.S. can be very dangerous, because people have reported getting mercury poisoning from these products.

Last week, a California family was diagnosed with mercury poisoning after using an unlabeled face cream in a white plastic jar that was produced in Mexico and smuggled into the United States. The family received the cream from a relative in Virginia who has been purchasing the jars from an individual in Mexico.

California investigators determined that the woman used the cream twice a day, while her husband likely used the cream once a day for about three years to fade freckles and age spots. It is probably that the child ingested mercury through contact with the mother’s skin, although the possibility that the mother used the cream on the child has not been ruled out. The highest levels of mercury were found in the mother and child.

The California Department of Public Health said the 39-year-old Mexican-American woman had 100 times the safe level of mercury in her body. She reported having headaches, numbness, depression and forgetfulness. Her child’s mercury levels were 25 times higher than normal, but it had no serious symptoms.

Dr. Rupali Das, chief of the exposure assessment section at the California Department of Public Health, warned that those who use skin lightening creams from stores in ethnic communities or from outside the U.S., such as Mexico or Africa, should be very careful when using those products.

“Since the U.S. and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have strict limits on the amount of mercury in products, it is unlikely that mercury will be found at dangerous levels to people in U.S. [products],” she told theGrio. “Products are required to have a list of ingredients to view. The ones that don’t, we don’t know if they are safe are not. Therefore, people should not buy products that don’t have a label or don’t list the ingredients on the label.”

According to health officials, mercury blocks melanin production, which gives skin and hair its pigmentation. Mercury can get into the body through ingestion, inhalation, and absorption through the skin. It can stay in the human body for up to two months. However, if repeatedly placed onto the skin, it can take longer for mercury to be excreted.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that in the United States, many creams on the market often have mercury levels of 20,000 to 56,000 parts per million. Yet, theFDA only allows trace levels of mercury to be present in creams, at less than one part per million.

Dr. Sonia Badreshia-Bansal of the University of California, San Francisco told theGrio that although the FDA bans the use of mercury to minimal concentrations for all skin care products manufactured within the United States, it is nearly impossible to control all of the illegally imported products that come into the country every year.

“Mercury can cause many systemic problems, and is known to cause neurological and kidney damage and may also lead to psychiatric disorders,” Badreshia-Bansal said. “Often permanent nerve and brain damage can occur with long-term exposure.”

 Here is a story about Dr. Stolar from the December 1960 issue of JET Magazine:

Now, unto the other person who has some parallels with MJ; her name was Emily Juana Burke, and she was an art teacher from Washington D.C. She suffered from vitiligo, and Dr. Stolar was able to successfully depigment her almost 10 years prior to depigmenting Arthur Wright! (You’ll see him in the second photo!) Here’s her story from the December 1968 issue of Ebony Magazine! Notice the amazing stories she shared from whites who didn’t realize that they were talking to a black person!

 “I Wish I Were Black Again”

Pretty vitiligo victim turns white; says he would prefer to revert to ‘way I was born’.

She was a 16-year old high school junior when a white spot appeared on her right ankle in contrast to her dark brown skin. Then other spots began to develop around her eyes. Soon they spread all over her exceptionally pretty face. That was six years ago and now Emily Juana Burke, an art teacher in Washington, D.C., has turned almost completely white because of a skin condition, vitiligo.

Though vitiligo affects about one percent of the U.S. population, Juana’s is a rare case, for seldom is the whitening process so complete. Partially it is because of a decision she had to make. When she first consulted dermatologists at Washington’s Freedmen’s Hospital, attempts were made to restore her natural pigmentation through drugs and hours of sitting in the sun.  Meanwhile, she wore dark makeup to conceal her ailment. When the whitening continued to progress, her only alternative was to undergo another treatment that would speed up the change. Now it is nearly complete, but Juana asserts: “I wanted to remain the color I was born.”


In the case of Juana Burke, color is more than skin deep, for the personable young teacher retains her old sense of black pride and identifies with her people. She continues to work at a predominantly black school and has the same friends. If anything, her racial attitudes have become stronger. As a black woman who looks white, she has had an opportunity to witness American racism from a unique vantage point. 

“It’s not just a change in concrete things,” she says of her dealings with whites, “but most of all, it’s a change in the way they treat you – with a more courteous attitude. I have found that most whites have very negative attitudes toward black people. They constantly make derogatory statements.”

Once she and a dark girlfriend went to a Maryland agency looking for employment. Juana was graciously called in and offered a good position, for which she had no experience. But, she recalls: “My girlfriend was offered a low-paying job in a way-out area and told that she would have to pay a $100 fee. I wasn’t even asked for a fee.” Both girls declined the jobs.

She recalls one time when a white woman got on a bus with her purse wide open and then whispered to Juana: “A nigger tried to pickpocket my purse.” When Juana whispered back to her that he was a Negro, she says, the woman almost fainted.

Once a white co-worker in a Maryland department store, she remembers, invited her to attend a Ku Klux Klan meeting. “I was very tempted to go,” says Juana, “but the fear of being discovered as the only black person in a gang of Ku Kluxers stopped me.”

There has been little change in her relationship with other black people, though they, too, have mistaken her for white. “While doing volunteer work at Resurrection City,” she relates, “I attended a meeting from which all whites had been barred. I was sitting there all comfortable when I glanced up and saw a man staring at me in unconcealed hostility. It was nerve-wracking. As soon as the meeting was over, I rushed over to him and told him my story. He smiled and said I should have told him sooner that I was a soul sister.”

Since the color change, she has lost one boyfriend, explaining: “He just couldn’t adjust to my new color. When I first saw him walking down the street after the change, I called out to him. He turned and didn’t even recognize me. We saw each other a couple of times after that, but I think he felt very uncomfortable with me.”

These and similar experiences have made Juana very pessimistic about the future of race relations in this country, but she, for one, knows where she stands. When asked if she has ever thought of slipping over to the other side, she replied emotionally: “No! No! No indeed! Never!” She has obviously made her choice.

Here is another story on Emily Juanita Burke from the June 1973 issue of JET Magazine:

Now I want to show how badly people with vitiligo are still treated, to this very day, especially in Third World countries. Here is a slideshow of vitiligo victims from India, where each victim describes their own personal struggle! I have included the following 3 photos, but please open this link to see the rest of the photos! Notice how the third lady said that music has been her meditation, similar to MJ!

On a positive note, there has been some progress in the battle against vitiligo! A few years ago, a vitiligo patient in Iran was cured of his vitiligo through the use of stem cells!

Iran’s stem cell research may lead to a vitiligo treatment

Researchers at the Tehran Royan Institute are taking advantage of Iran’s open embryonic research programs. A team lead by Dr. Baharvand claims to have pioneered a procedure that uses the patient’s own stem cells to cure vitiligo.

This research focuses on induced pluripotent stem (IPS), adult stem cells which are made to act like embryonic ones – they gain the ability to become any cell in the human body.

Rather than managing the symptoms of the disease, they would be used to regenerate the affected parts of the body.

For additional information on Michael Jackson and vitiligo, please read the following posts:

8 Comments leave one →
  1. kaarin22 permalink
    April 21, 2012 2:57 am

    Be very careful to check that a product does not contain Mercury. It is poisonous to the kidneys in fairly small amounts. Here we are warned not to even eat local fish more than twice a week as waters have been contaminated by mercury.


  2. Linda permalink
    April 19, 2012 8:35 pm

    @Kris Heywood PERMALINK
    April 19, 2012 7:41 pm
    Doesn’t the guitarist in the video for the live performance of “Come Together” hav
    e vitiligo? His arms are quite spotty. I always thought it looked nice. Do you know anything about him?

    Wow, I just had to go watch that video again. I never noticed it before because my eyes are always riveted on Michael, but yes, his arms, chest, neck and face does look like it. I was trying to figure who he was in the credits, but it wasn’t helpful.


  3. April 19, 2012 7:41 pm

    @sanemjfan–I love how you guys educate us about Michael. I’ve always thought how hard it must be to have to wear thick body-makeup when you’re dancing so hard. No wonder Michael needed to have strategically located fans on-stage. The heat-buildup in his body must have been tremendous. It’s one of the reasons he got so dehydrated. Doesn’t the guitarist in the video for the live performance of “Come Together” have vitiligo? His arms are quite spotty. I always thought it looked nice. Do you know anything about him?


  4. Mona permalink
    April 19, 2012 3:44 pm

    Usually people are very likely to believe what the media feeds them. And the media usually chooses to tell what sells better. Of course something weird about MJ would have sold better not just for the moment, but they could also make up stories for the future. If they just presented it as an illness how much could they say about it? Just present it one or two times and that’s it for the money making potential. It’s true Michael told people what’s happening with his skin, but people’s minds were already twisted into believing exaggerated stories about him, so when they heard the vitiligo story it might have seen to them like just a lie, because once you form an opinion on someone, no matter how unfair or prejudiced it is, it’s difficult to change it.

    I guess this must be a possible explanation.



  5. Susanne permalink
    April 19, 2012 3:14 pm

    We can see that this disease is not so extremely rare. There are thousands or even millions of people on earth suffering from vitiligo. So why didn’t people believe Michael? Why did it seem so unlikely to many?
    Thanks for the education, David.


  6. nannorris permalink
    April 19, 2012 5:22 am

    Can you imagine being Michael Jackson , living with this disease and being taunted worldwide ….
    people like the Demon insinuating he didnt like his own race …
    I am in awe of how strong a person he must have been to be scrutinized so badly..
    He is the most famous person in the world and he has this disease and nobody in the media is covering the disease, or educating the public….., they are just making fun of him…..
    people were so cruel to him…


  7. Mona permalink
    April 19, 2012 1:48 am

    In the summer of 2009, about a month after Michael’s death i happened to be on a beach in Greece pretending to myself and the world I was ok with his loss, but that’s another story… However, on that beach I saw a black guy with 100% white hands, he was selling paintings on the beach. He probably had it on the rest of his body as well, as he was protecting himself from the sun, wearing long pants and a long sleeved shirt in that heat. I could only see his hands, I was probably the only one who noticed it also, as people were busy working on their tans, but to me it was my moment of awakening as far as Michael’s vitiligo was concerned. I was good for nothing the entire day just trying to put myself in his shoes, having to deal with such an illness, being in front of people and cameras all the time and on top of that dealing with race-related allegations. Awful. He must have been a really strong man on the inside to be able to deal with that and stay sane.


  8. Linda permalink
    April 18, 2012 8:54 pm

    Vitiligo has got to be such a devastating disease even for a white person who isn’t in the lime light all the time. The girl I know with it is pretty light skinned, and even then where the hands are so white in contrast, that’s the first thing you notice before she even gets very close to you. She also, wisely, keeps an umbrella handy.

    Must have been horrible for Michael with all the camera’s and lights and people always staring at him. He probably often wondered if his zipper was down, or his makeup streaking, or were they staring because of his fame. I would think it might cause a lot of insecurity, no matter who you are.


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