Statue of Henrietta Lacks will replace Robert E Lee – BBC

A black American woman – whose cells were taken without consent 70 years ago and have helped save millions of lives – will get a statue at a spot that once hosted a monument to Confederate General Robert E Lee.
Officials said a life-size bronze of Henrietta Lacks will be erected in her hometown of Roanoke, Virginia.
Her family has called the planned monument "an honour".
Henrietta Lacks' cancer cells were the first cloned outside the human body and have been instrumental in medical breakthroughs around the world. Scientists have called her the "mother of modern medicine".
But her own children say those cells were stolen without her consent or compensation and they have spent decades fighting for their mother's recognition.
Roanoke Hidden Histories, a non-profit dedicated to elevating the contributions of African Americans, helped raise more than $180,000 (£148,000) to build the statue.
It will be erected at the recently renamed Lacks Plaza, which was once the site of a monument to Confederate General Robert E Lee. That statue was toppled during Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. After calls to replace it with a monument that honoured the contributions of black Americans, sculptor Larry Bechtel was commissioned to carve a statue of Ms Lacks.
"This means a lot to my family," said Ron Lacks, her grandson, at a ceremony unveiling plans for the statue. "My dad is the last living relative of Henrietta… He's fought through the tears and the pain to tell her story so I can share it with the rest of the world."
In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, a young black mother in Baltimore, Maryland, began experiencing pain in her abdomen and abnormal bleeding. She was examined by gynaecologists at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and they discovered a large mass on her cervix.
Without informing her or asking for permission, doctors sent a sample of Ms Lacks' tumour to a lab for medical research before treating her for aggressive cervical cancer. At the time, according to Johns Hopkins historians, it was common practice for doctors to harvest samples from their patients for further medical research.
But Ms Lacks' cells proved to be a medical miracle. While nearly all cell cultures died quickly in the lab, these cells continued to multiply and didn't age, making them "immortal".
The cell line, called "HeLa" after Ms Lacks' first and last name, was sent to research labs around the world. According to the World Health Organization, HeLa cells have led to the creation of the polio vaccine and advancements in HIV, cancer and infertility research.
But the same properties that made the cells a scientific miracle, also made them lethal. Months after her diagnosis, Ms Lacks died from cancer at just 31 years old.
Her family has said they were never informed that her cells had been harvested until decades later and they have spent years fighting to reform the system that they say "stole" their mother's cells because she was a poor black woman.
The statue honouring Ms Lacks is expected to be unveiled in October 2023. Ben Crump, the Lacks family attorney, said with the statue the City of Roanoke will be "making right a historic wrong".
"Today, here in Roanoke, Virginia, at Lacks Plaza, we acknowledge that she was not only significant… she is as relevant as any historic figure in the world today," he said.
In a testament to Ms Lacks' global legacy, the University of Bristol in England last year erected a statue of her – the first public sculpture of a black woman made by a black woman.
'Mother' of modern medicine Lacks honoured
Immortal-cell family win recognition
US winter storm will bring frostbite within minutes
Zelensky's secret journey out of Ukraine to the US
Zelensky trip shows US doesn't want peace – Russia
‘If I get the first shot, I will kill you son’
Quiz of the Year: Reckon you're a 2022 news expert?
After an epic journey ends, what happens next?
Escaping Nile floods to a minefield
'Just jokes': How a comedian divided Chinese online. Video
Anxious Christmas for families of Indians held in Nigeria
What exactly is in the $1.7tr US spending bill?
An abandoned Irish town's Christmas mystery
The dark side of a children's classic
Asia's most beautiful train route?
The diseases soaring post-lockdown
© 2022 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read about our approach to external linking.


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button