Henrietta Lacks Statue To Be Erected At Spot Where Monument Of Confederate General Robert E. Lee Once Stood



Henrietta Lacks, the woman whose cancer cells led to medical breakthroughs but were taken without her consent, will be honored with a life-size bronze statue in her hometown of Roanoke, which was once named after Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

The statue will be unveiled next year, according to The New York Times. Roanoke Hidden Histories raised over $183,000 to fund the project. The organization’s goal is to “surface the hidden histories of the African American experience in Roanoke,” its website states.

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During a news conference to discuss the statue’s details on Monday, Bryce Cobbs, a local artist, shared an initial drawing of Lacks. Lacks is dressed in a blazer and a knee-length skirt in the black-and-white drawing. Her arms are folded as well. The drawing will be used to design the statue.

“Hopefully, if everything goes right, we will have an unveiling of this splendid sculpture next October,” the sculptor, Larry Bechtel, said.

The commemorative statue, according to Ron Lacks, whose grandmother is named Lacks, was long overdue. “This means a lot to my family,” he said, adding that he was looking forward to seeing “the sculpture that will forever honor her in this beautiful city of Roanoke.”

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When finished, the statue will be installed at Henrietta Lacks Plaza. According to The New York Times, it will also be placed where a monument to Confederate general Robert E. Lee was previously erected. After being damaged, the Confederate general’s monument was removed in the summer of 2020. Following the removal of the statue, plans to rename the plaza were also initiated.

“Being a part of history in this way, working with this group of people to bring this to life, is something that I’ll never forget,” Cobbs said about Lacks’ statue.

Lacks sought treatment at John Hopkins Hospital on January 29, 1951, after experiencing abdominal discomfort in her womb. After suffering a hemorrhage, she was tested for syphilis, a sexually transmitted infection. The outcomes were negative.

Lacks’ cervix was biopsied by her doctor, Howard W. Jones. She was diagnosed with malignant epidermoid carcinoma. Radium tube inserts were used to treat Lacks. She was scheduled to return to the hospital for X-ray follow-up treatments. Samples were taken from Lacks’ cervix without her knowledge or consent. The samples were given to John Hopkins cancer researcher and doctor George Otto Gey. One sample was cancerous, while the other was not.

Lacks’ cervix cells became known as the HeLa immortal cell line, which is now a widely used cell line. HeLa cells are commonly used in scientific research. What’s also remarkable about HeLa cells is that they can be used repeatedly. Even if the cells are no longer “alive,” a new batch can be extracted from the original cell culture.

Using HeLa cells, a vaccine for polio was developed in 1952. The cells were the first to be successfully cloned in 1953. Furthermore, the cells have been used in gene mapping and further research for a variety of diseases. HeLa cells are currently the subject of 11,000 patents.

Lacks died of cervical cancer on October 4, 1951, at the age of 31.



Written by How Africa News

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