An Evening with the Lacks Family: The Story Behind The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
- Presented By: Holocaust Museum Houston
- Dates: January 29, 2021 - April 18, 2021
- Recurrence: Recurring weekly on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday
- Location: Holocaust Museum Houston - Zoom
- Time: 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM
- Price: Free
- Admission: Free
- Area of Town: Museum District
- Free Admission: Yes
The Lacks family has enthralled audiences across the country by talking about their mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, Henrietta Lacks, and her transcendentally important contributions to science. The internatonal success of Rebecca Skloot’s New York Times bestseller, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, has let people keenly interested in the Lacks family and Henrietta’s legacy.
Henrietta Lacks was a poor Black tobacco farmer whose cells, taken without her knowledge in 1951,
went on to become the first immortal human cells ever grown in the laboratory. Those cells, dubbed HeLa, became one of the most important tools in modern medicine, vital for developing the polio
vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more. Though Henrietta died in 1951, her cells—alive and growing to this day—are still the most widely used in the world.
Henrietta’s family didn’t learn that the cells existed until the 1970s, when scientists wanted to do research on her children—Lawrence, David “Sonny” Jr., Deborah, and Zakariyya—to learn more about the remarkable “immortality” of Henrietta’s cell line. Her children were then used in research without their consent, and without having their most basic questions answered, such as, “What is a cell?” and
“What does it mean that Henrietta’s cells are alive?”
In this moderated discussion with Holocaust Museum Houston Director of Education, Wendy Warren, the family will share what it meant to find out—decades after the fact—that Henrietta’s cells were being
used in laboratories around the world, bought and sold by the billions.
David Lacks, Jr. is the grandson of Henrietta Lacks and the son of David “Sonny” Lacks. David has a degree in computer information systems and has traveled around the United States and Canada setting up computer systems and labs for companies and educational institutions. He also lends his talent to the
Lacks family’s website. David is honored to serve on the National Institutes of Health panel, where he reviews proposals from researchers seeking to use the HeLa genome in their research.
Victoria Baptiste is Henrietta Lacks’s great-granddaughter. She travels regularly to talk about the Lacks family’s story. Inspired by Henrietta’s life, she is a nephrology nurse at a dialysis center. As a patient’s
advocate, Victoria prides herself on treating patients with respect and dignity and—most importantly—making sure they understand their care. She finds her career fulfilling because it gives her the
opportunity to educate patients.
*Photo - The Lacks Family with "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" author Rebecca Skloot