But take heart, hopefully after reading this post you will be able to show off your Henrietta Lacks knowledge to your friends.
"When Henrietta Lacks was stricken with an aggressive cancer more than 60 years ago, doctors who treated her at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore took cells from her tumor without her permission or knowledge, as was common practice at the time. They soon learned that the cells were just as aggressive in a laboratory dish. Instead of dying quickly as previous cell lines had, they kept replicating at an astonishing rate, earning them the label “immortal” and making them immensely valuable to any scientist who wanted a stable base for experiments.
The cells, called HeLa cells, are ubiquitous in labs around the world and have been used in more than 74,000 research studies on almost every disease. The cells have helped researchers develop a polio vaccine and gain insights into cell biology, in vitro fertilization, and cancer, among other advances.
The enduring constant in this saga has been the cavalier treatment of the Lacks family by medical researchers. Neither Ms. Lacks nor others in her family were told that extracting cells from her tumor (and later taking cells from some of her relatives) was not being done for their benefit but for the benefit of science.
That condescending attitude changed last week when the National Institutes of Health announced an agreement with the Lacks family that will restrict N.I.H.-financed research on the genome of HeLa cells (not the use of HeLa cells in experiments) and place two family members on a committee to approve such research.
The family was especially concerned that publishing the full genomic sequence of HeLa cells would violate its privacy by revealing abnormalities in genes that could be transmitted to later generations. Although the deal does not apply to projects not funded by N.I.H., the agency hopes all researchers will honor it." [Source]
Taking this woman's cell for 62 years without her permission was not cool. And using her cell to replicate an endless cell line which is now being used all around the world is definitely not cool.
The thing is, knowing black folks the way that I do, all they had to do was ask.
Finally, since we are talking about History, on this day in 1906, African American soldiers stationed in Brownsville, Texas got into it with the locals of that town.
Read up on what happened in Brownsville and tell me if you think the actions of President Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft were that of honorable men, and why so little is known about this sad chapter of American history.