UE to host Family of Henrietta Lacks for presentation and Q&A session

Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Lacks family will be guests of the University of Evansville’s Honors Program on Monday, October 29 for a presentation and question and answer session in connection with The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the bestseller written by Rebecca Skloot about their matriarch, Henrietta Lacks. 

The event is from 6:00-7:00 p.m. in Eykamp Hall, Ridgway University Center and is free and open to the public.

UE’s Honors Program freshmen read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks for their summer common read and have extended an invitation to the community to read the book and attend this special event.

The book is the winner of several awards, including the 2010 Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Nonfiction, the 2010 Wellcome Trust Book Prize, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Award for Excellence in Science Writing. It was featured on over 60 critics’ best of the year lists. The book was also made into an HBO movie starring Oprah Winfrey.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, a poor, black, tobacco farmer who had cells taken from her in 1951 without her knowledge. The cells became the first immortal human cells grown in the laboratory. Dubbed HeLa, they became one of the most important tools in modern medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more. Henrietta died in 1951 but her cells are still the most widely used in the world. Henrietta’s cells have helped biotech companies make millions, yet her family never benefited from their commercialization. Special guests at the UE event will include David Lacks, Jr. and Alfred Carter, Jr., grandsons of Henrietta Lacks.

The Lacks family’s presentation will put a personal face on such issues as the history of medical experimentation on African Americans, bioethics, legal battles over informed consent, and who controls what we are made of and who should profit from it.

The Lacks family is being brought to the UE campus by UE’s Honors Program, along with support from UE Student Government, Office of Academic Affairs, School of Public Health, and the Patricia H. Snyder Concert and Lecture Series.

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