Henrietta Lacks

As Black History Month draws to a close, Sandrarose.com recognizes a woman whose unique cancer cells pioneered many medical and science breakthroughs.

The descendant of African slaves and their masters, Henrietta Lacks was born in 1920 in Roanoke, Virginia. She grew up dirt poor on a tobacco farm in Clover, Virginia after her mother died while giving birth to her 10th child.

Unable to raise 10 children on his own, Henrietta’s father sent her to Clover to live with a male relative.

The four-year-old girl shared a bedroom with her 9-year-old male cousin, David “Day” Lacks, her future husband.

Before long, the children were sexually active. Being sexually active at an early age probably led to Henrietta developing cervical cancer later on.

Henrietta gave birth to her and Day’s 1st baby, a boy, at age 14. Four years later, a girl with neurological disabilities was born.

Henrietta and Day married in 1941 when she was 20. She bore 3 more children for Day.

Four months after giving birth to her last child at age 30 in 1951, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer after complaining of severe abdominal pain.

She began cancer treatments at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, the only hospital in the area that treated black patients at the time. She died several months after she was admitted to the hospital. She was 31.

During an earlier treatment session, a lab technician took two samples of tissue cells from Henrietta’s cervix without her permission. One sample was of healthy cells and the other sample was of cancerous cells.

The samples were given to Dr. George Otto Gey, a cancer researcher at Johns Hopkins, who noticed that her cancer cells divided at a very rapid rate without dying.

Dr. Gey isolated a particular cancer cell from Henrietta’s sample and divided it multiple times, using the same cell for multiple tests. Dr. Gey named the new line of research cells HeLa cells, by using the first 2 letters in Henrietta’s first and last names.

All cancer cells divide at a rapid rate. The difference is cancer cells usually die after several days outside of the body. But Henrietta’s cancer cells lived much longer, allowing doctors and researchers more time to conduct their tests.

Dr. Gey sent the HeLa cells to other labs for research projects. Soon Henrietta’s HeLa cells were in very high demand. Scientists eventually reproduced 20 tons of HeLa cells in labs all over the world.

HeLa cells led to many medical breakthroughs through research and testing. The cells were used in the development of the polio vaccine, AIDS research, gene mapping, and in testing commercial products such as cosmetics, tape, glue, etc.

An unscrupulous doctor even injected Henrietta’s cancer cells into state prisoners to see if he could transmit cancer or stimulate their immune systems to produce antibodies to cancer. The experiments failed miserably.

Henrietta Lacks

Eventually, Henrietta’s family members learned about her significant contributions to medical research, and started asking questions.

Henrietta’s story began to circulate. Books were written; documentaries aired on TV, and Oprah acquired the book rights for a movie.

The Morehouse School of Medicine holds its annual HeLa Women’s Health Conferences; Johns Hopkins established the 1st annual Henrietta Lacks Memorial Lecture Series in 2010; and she received a honorary doctorate in 2011 from Morgan State University.

Also in 2011, Vancouver, Washington named the newĀ Henrietta Lacks Health and Bioscience High School in her honor.

In August 2013, members of the Lacks family reached an agreement with the National Institute of Health, giving the family more control over access to the HeLa cells’ DNA sequence.


  • KDub

    You do this on the LAST day of Black History Month? Im out. BBL

  • hi-liter
  • http://www.mylifeinlame.com/?m=1 Kimberly

    Right! Crazy! Smh.

    Btw, War Eagle!!! ?

  • Bugsy

    Surely you are not surprised!

  • hi-liter

    Henrietta Lacks’ family is extraordinary. They have not asked for a DIME….all they wanted was their mothers DNA respected.

  • nucynu25

    I truely wish you would give the back stories if cave demons like this …

  • Araminta Glissade Chaines

    Sandy you have outdone yourself this time. I can NOT with you. Im gone holla at yall later

  • http://sandrarose.com SandraRose

    They didn’t ask for a dime because their lawyers advised them they wouldn’t get a penny in a lawsuit. Trust, they asked.

  • wcapers

    Have you read the book? It’s pretty interesting.

  • Erin Blockabitch

    Go ahead and give @leapyearpisces props for being the commenter who mentioned and educated the blog on Henrietta Lacks last year.

  • CrunchyBlack1

    damn if this isnt loaded with backhanded compliments…oh wow

  • 2brefrank

    That’s crazy you can replicate the cells like that. Did they also use her cells for cloning and other research…hmm…. Who knows. But this is an awesome story, though I’m sorry she died this way šŸ™ Henrietta’s fam is like…WHERE’S THE MONEY! They owe them for doing all that research without letting folks know…they need to see the funds in her estate!!!

    Additionally, Sandy, why you make it seem like you talked about a Black History person everyday of the month though? I appreciate the post but I’m just asking. We on here fighting about Remy Ma and Nicki and Bey’s babies and the Oscars and alt right and alt left and peoples feet being on the couch and desk and black gays….all dat….and aint talked about nan person for black history month all month until taday. I love you though. You my crazy Auntie!

  • Nanny

    I couldn’t finish the book I was so mad. Day probably gave her an std that caused the cancer.

  • Itzgoingdown

    What exactly is wrong with this post? Have YOU heard about the NEW cancer breakthrough?

  • SuperScooper1

    Yes! I finished it but there were times I was literally crying in frustration and sadness. Either way, I’m glad the story wasn’t lost to history.

  • Itzgoingdown

    Great Post….. as usual. Thank You

  • Dakota H

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/local/henrietta-lackss-family-wants-compensation-for-her-cells/2017/02/14/816481ba-f302-11e6-b9c9-e83fce42fb61_story.html

    They have asked but not sure if they will get any money. White doctors were always secretly doing these experiments on black people back in the days.

  • Jen_no_juice

    Seriously? Please re-read it then since you don’t understand

  • SuperScooper1

    Sandra, I appreciate your blog and respect you. But you KNOW any family would have sought remuneration in a case like this. Here’s a great white paper I read in Grad School on cases like this, though Ms. Lacks’ case was a bit different:
    https://www.sas.upenn.edu/~baron/papers/pain.pdf

  • Yoni7

    A high school friend of mine and her daughter are playing in this HBO special.

  • L.T.L. Since 2007

    Thanks for the history lesson. But this write up with all the side digs left me with a whole gang of WTF’s.

  • hi-liter

    Okay, even if they did ask, hell with all the lives their mother’s DNA has saved, chit they deserve MILLIONS.

  • Rayne

    The only PUHSON you POST for black HISTRY and look what you write. Disgraceful ????
    Sandra Renicka LaGenia Lee Rose.
    Disgraceful smh but that’s yo style tho.

  • LibraGirlonly

    Love this ??.

  • Rayne

    I swear jeevus ????

  • KDub

    Never. To the War Eagle. Lol.

  • SugarFoot a.k.a Ty

    Sandra u need to do better!!!!

  • Itzgoingdown

    Well written, interesting, informative and ACCURATE. Some people can’t see the forest for the trees. Have you read the GARBAGE on other black blogs lately?

  • Buttercup

    The shade was completely unnecessary

  • kekeb

    How have I not heard of this?!!!! Wow. This is remarkably tragic and weirdly amazing

  • Lovezoe

    Let me go fore I get banned

  • missmiami305

    U close out Black History Month with unnecessary shade?

  • Gamer?? Chick

    ? who wrote this sh!t the intern… just so unnecessary back story was not needed. Could have just stuck with the cancer research only write up.

  • missmiami305

    Gave me a headache reading this

  • ibedatchick

    You the #truth

  • KDub

    She sure did. Happy Birthday to her too today. I saw she said she was on of the Leaplings who celebrated on 2/28 vs 3/1.

  • missmiami305

    Coming from you, that means you are pissed. Imma read the comments im the nicki post

  • Strong White Woman

    Damn you almost had me. Before clicking I thought oh wow. Sandra’s writing a story on a Black woman I read about in grade school. Did Sandra just find out about this woman I asked myself? They are doing a movie on her. Sandra must have only learned of her recently. If not why wait so long to post on her? Then I thought never mind that, at least we get a post.
    I read as far as this “recognizes a biracial”. Oh well. You had me for a brief moment though. Same ol alt white propoganda. Let me pretend to care, pretend to acknowledge, but remind them they’re beneath me. Whatevs. There’s always next year??

  • L.T.L. Since 2007

    That won’t shade. That was a fukking solar eclipse.

  • Strong White Woman

    I’ll go with y’all…

  • Taylordanes

    right you and me both….

  • Taylordanes

    #clickandbait no respect for the black woman or her experience on this blog…..

  • MissHarlem

    Have the unmitigated gall to post on black history on the last day of the month. It could be shade filled because I didn’t read but in all the years I been here (damn near 10) not a single post on black history month.

  • KDub

    Total help me sing. I am still sitting here pist.

  • L.T.L. Since 2007
  • hottlanta

    The book was excellent and glad Oprah is doing the file. Can’t wait.

  • MissHarlem

    I’m so damn annoyed. I see I’m going to have another hiatus because WTF.

  • MissHarlem

    Don’t make no damn sense. Can’t even escape white people’s entitlement and supremacy because we got a house ninja as the blog owner.

  • CookieMobster

    Ms. Sandra I think next year during Black History Month it would be nice and very interesting to get a daily post on an African-American hero that is not well known suck as Ms. Lacks!!???

  • dontgetblocked

    I’m a little speechless. Uhm. I’m not sure what to say. I never knew about the part of the story with the minor children having sex and begetting kids. Then they got married?

  • hottlanta

    Just like Dump getting a picture with all of those HBCU Presidents and gonna announce to the world see told yall I love me some black people I saved yall schools.

  • dontgetblocked

    *film

  • http://sandrarose.com SandraRose

    You’re welcome, hun. ?

  • Well$$Well$$?

    Amazing story minus the bull$hit write up. ?

  • Araminta Glissade Chaines

    “…..you almost had me. Before clicking I thought oh wow. Sandra’s writing a story on a Black woman I read about in grade school.”
    ===========
    me, as well

  • dontgetblocked

    If the woman died at 31, I hope Oprah’s old ass isn’t trying to play her.

  • dontgetblocked

    He actually is saving them. If you attended a HBCU you’d know they’re in a bad state. I attended and left due to the lack or resources at my historically black college.

  • SugarFoot a.k.a Ty

    Let me pretend to care, pretend to acknowledge, but remind them they’re beneath me. Whatevs. There’s always next year??
    ___________
    Her azz is going to learn! For some reason she thinks she is exempt (not black) :coffee:

  • dontgetblocked
  • CookieMobster

    Sorry.. I had a typo in there! I meant not well known, like Ms. Lacks.

  • http://sandrarose.com SandraRose

    Yes. They were cousins.

  • http://sandrarose.com SandraRose

    I just learned about Ms. Lacks last week. So she wasn’t well known to me.

  • Saywhite

    She was not biracial

  • IAmLegend
  • Strong White Woman

    ?EYE guess better late than never, minus the semitacky write up.
    THIS book was on our Rose Bookclub list a few yrs byke. Mannie Roses read it. Great story and great book! ??

  • Mrs. B. Y.

    Sandra didn’t say she was biracial. Learn to read….she wrote “descendants of African slaves and their masters”. It’s no secret that most slave masters and the overseers raped many a slave women. Hence, the reason why there are far more hues and color variations of Black people in the U.S., the Caribbean, & Latin America.

  • Mrs. B. Y.

    I would have loved for Oprah to have given the role of Lacks’ daughter to a fresh Black actress. She doesn’t have to play in every damn film lol

  • Sexy CJ
  • Sexy CJ
  • Renee Bee

    Thank the Lord I already knew about the great contributions of Henrietta Lacks. Every month is Black History Month for me and I could go on without the extraness of this write-up from the Queen of Shade.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9d634a47114232c2fdf1d5033e6115a63bf821346f476ee79cb4508aa868d0d3.jpg

  • bemetoo

    how come most of yall including sandra did not know about ms lacks..
    i guess its better late than never

    Also when did she become bi racial ???

  • Readytochokemothernatureonout

    ???

  • Minx Mosaic

    You sure can tell that Sandra Deadrose is quite insecure about being of a darker hue. She always has to advise her readers that her subject is bi-racial, as if it has anything at all to due with the narrative. Truth be told, we’re all at the very least bi-racial. None of us are full blooded anything anymore. Lay off that crap Ms. Deadrose. Report the latest news/gossip and leave the input of the 2 cents to your readers. That’s why we’re here.

  • leapyearpisces

    Thanks. I sure did, it’s all good though. :-). I’m at the oyster bar celebrating fake birthday with all you can eat crablegs!. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0575ccb7216705d48a69c3d5f043ce59182a3da42940c8e9d3c30e3cf49a1766.jpg

  • Erin Blockabitch

    I’m happy for you and #jellis at the same time. Tonight is Being Mary Jane night. IDK what I want to eat. I told my mom I think I want a giant lobster or some crab legs, and here you come showing off! Lol

    Happy birthday to you!!! We just wished my deceased great-aunt a happy birthday. She was also a LYP. ??????

  • Sexy CJ

    One Of The Best Inspirational Books That I Have Ever Read…..

  • Toi Toi

    She called her biracial in the first sentence

  • klwbaby

    Had the nerve to write learn to read….???

  • http://sandrarose.com SandraRose

    That’s a lie. If you took the time to click the BLACK HISTORY MONTH tag below the post, you would see other posts I wrote. Here, I’ll make it easy for you >>> http://sandrarose.com/tag/black-history-month/

  • kiturner52

    Mrs. B.Y. you need to take your own advice and LEARN HOW TO READ because Sandra DEFINETLY said she was “biracial”… and a quote…..
    ” As Black History Month draws to a close, Sandrarose.com recognizes a “biracial” woman whose unique cancer cells pioneered many medical and science breakthroughs.”

    Clearly in the 1st sentence of the post!!!!!
    READING IS FUNDAMENTAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • kiturner52

    OMG… I thought I was the only one that noticed her inability to take her own advice and LEARN TO READ!!!! #justsaying

  • http://sandrarose.com SandraRose

    Her cancer cells did not cure polio. The cells were used in testing the vaccine. Her cells are not a part of the vaccine. AND, if you took the time to read the post, you would know…

    “HeLa cells led to many medical breakthroughs through research and testing. The cells were used in the development of the polio vaccine, AIDS research, gene mapping, and in testing commercial products such as cosmetics, tape, glue, etc.”

  • http://sandrarose.com SandraRose

    HeLa cells are cancer cells. All cancer cells replicate themselves. They only used her cancer cells for testing and research purposes. The difference in her cells is that they lived longer than other cancer cells.

  • Mrs. B. Y.

    Um, ma’am, that’s NOT on the site anymore. It appears that Sandra has taken down the biracial thing and I didn’t see it when I read the article. Idk if it was prior to me visiting but she took out wherever it used to say “biracial”.

  • http://sandrarose.com SandraRose

    Thanks, hun. I wish I had a thousand more readers like you. ?

  • Mrs. B. Y.

    Whatever y’all are discussing is no longer posted on the site. It’s not my fault she took it down and y’all are still talking about it when new readers waltz in here lol

  • Mrs. B. Y.

    Nah, Oprah is playing Lacks’ adult daughter. There’s another lady playing the role of Lacks.

  • Ms.Caramel

    Sandra not to worry… Massa would have chosen you before a mixed slave… Massa loved him some deep dark field meat… Stop throwing shade cuz you dark girl…. You’re beautiful…

  • http://sandrarose.com SandraRose

    I like the way you handled them. ?

  • http://sandrarose.com SandraRose

    Thanks, hun. But pointing out her racial background is not throwing shade. Unless you think being biracial or mixed race is shady?

  • Django the God

    All out of her womb.

  • Ms.Caramel

    You go girl.. I actually laughed at your comment.

  • Ms.Caramel

    Kids do that now!

  • Ms.Caramel

    You sure about that?

  • AlwayssB

    Oh hell no, did they get compensated, well heck neither did we for Slavery…..carry on……….

  • MystyBlu

    Would expect nothing less. A Black woman’s cells were used to save lives and transform medicine..there had to be a hideous back story attached. Can’t let her have a moment of glory for her suffering smdh

  • MystyBlu

    Would expect nothing less. A Black woman’s cells were used to save lives and transform medicine..there had to be a hideous back story attached. Can’t let her have a moment of glory for her suffering smdh

  • 2brefrank

    Oh! Thanks for clarifying.

  • 2brefrank

    Yes! I said the same loll

  • Ni Ni

    What an odd and tragic story ?.

  • http://thedevereauxshow.com/ Ms.Devereaux

    Nope!!! They always stealing from us and getting rich while leaving is poor !!!! Someone should have sued the hell outta these people they took samples of tissue from a dying women without her permission this is wrong on so many levels

  • Emily post

    They start acknowledging her now. because they got caught.

  • ThaRealist StudioGangster

    ???? Sorry for the being the class clown for today’s black history class but, that was to funny!!! Massa still like his women fresh of the slave ship Heysus. Don’t forget Jennifer,Kelly, Heather and, Sarah. They like Seal over Al Debarg.

  • ReadingIsFundamental4Real

    Educational with sprinkles of serious shade.

  • OkWhatevah

    You have the oddest relationship with your Roses…..a love/hate type thing going on. I’ve been reading your blog for years now. You have the gift of pressing ones buttons.. lol… doesn’t bother me, I have a sister with the same gift. Be well Sandra.

  • Depths Of My Soul!

    ???

  • Doink_Ahanahue

    This reminds us (blacks, minorities) of the need to ask questions and work to educate ourselves instead of whining about what someone else has or has not GIVEN us. As we gain the knowledge to spread it to others and when someone truly speaks knowledge, not to look down on or tease them because of it.

  • Cici

    Can’t wait for the movie

  • Sunny

    The documentary is on PBS.com

  • Emily post

    Lmaoooo??

  • Emily post

    They are just mad cause he is helping black people and it doesn’t fit the elite democrat and Hollywood narrative.
    Guess what the Democrats are doing raising funds and using tax payer dollars to defend illegal immigrants…

  • Zeta Phi Beta 1920

    Being sexually active at an early age probably led to Henrietta developing cervical cancer later on.

    @realsandrarose:disqus

    sandrarose.com

    Please elaborate.

  • Sinny

    ??

  • Michelle

    Amazing story.

  • Michelle

    Omg!…???!!!!!