Henrietta Lacks was born to poor African American parents in the small southern industrial city, Roanoke, VA.
When Henrietta was four, her mother died. Henrietta went to live with her grandfather.
The Elder Lacks was a tobacco farmer in Clover, VA.
His was home to many of his grandchildren.
Henrietta got four years in school before she was needed in the tobacco fields.
When she was 14, she had her first child, a daughter. When she was 20, she married the father of her children, her cousin, David Lacks.
Henrietta was a pretty and friendly woman. She was a good mother, and a good cook. She enjoyed cooking for family and friends. Henrietta also enjoyed music and dancing.
Henrietta and David moved to Baltimore so that David could get a good job.
After Henrietta and David had four children, Henrietta noticed a hard lump in her body.
She had another child before she felt it was serious enough to point out to a doctor.
Henrietta went to the only hospital that would treat African Americans. The doctors at Johns Hopkins told her she had cancer and began treatment.
The doctors also took a slice of her cancer and put it in a test tube to study. To their surprise, Henrietta's cells did something unheard of. The cells in the test tube began to GROW...
Although they tried, the doctors could not cure Henrietta. She died a few months later at the hospital.
On the day that Henrietta died, the lab that had studied Henrietta's cells, announced that, at last, science had found human cells that would remain alive outside the body.
The way science knew anything of the person, was by the name of the cells, HeLa.
Henrietta died without knowing. Her husband and children did not learn that a piece of their mother was still alive, and being very, very useful to scientists all over the world.
After Henrietta's death, her children lived in severe poverty. When the oldest son married, he and his wife took the younger children to live with them. The children were now well-treated, but the family was still very poor.
In the meantime, those cells from Henrietta's tumor were found to be very useful for medical research. They were used to test the Salk vaccine to prevent polio. They were used to in tests to learn more about cancer and other diseases.The HeLa cells were used to test cures and treatments. Those who were marketing Henrietta's cells were making lots of money.
But, Henrietta's family did not know that a part of their mother was still alive, and they were not included in those who made money from the "HeLa" cells. When the hospital wanted to test cells from Henrietta's husband and their children, the family learned that their mother's cells were still living.
The whole story of Henrietta and the successful HeLa cells is told in a book written in 2010 by Rebecca Skloot, who also helped the family understand the great gift their mother had given to the world.
The Book: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Wikipedia: Henrietta Lacks
HeLa Photo Slideshow Photos of the people and the cells
The Adventures of Fred and Ethel (Henrietta's cousin Emma learns about HeLa)
HeLa Cells Story T-Rex Comic by Ryan North
The Book: The Immortal Cells of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Page created March 6, 2010. Anne Pemberton. Updated Mon, Feb 6, 2012. AP.<.em