Henrietta Lacks' Son, Granddaughter Discuss Book
Until Rebecca Skloot wrote The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, few knew anything about the woman whose cancer cells, harvested without her knowledge before her death in 1951, became the immortal “HeLa” cell line essential to medical research for seven decades.
Even her son, David “Sonny” Lacks, Jr., and her granddaughter, Jeri Lacks Whye, learned about Henrietta Lacks by reading Skloot’s book — about her contributions to medicine and her early years and interests as well.
Lacks and Whye visited Providence College on April 4 for a conversation with students, staff, and faculty about The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the Freshman Common Reading Program selection this academic year. Also attending the event, which was presented by the Office of Academic Affairs, were students and faculty from Rhode Island College, where the book also was a common reading selection.
Read the full story.
Essay Contest Winners
All incoming Providence College freshmen and transfer students were invited to submit an original essay that connected critical themes of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks with relevant issues in today’s society.
The winners were announced at Academic Convocation. They are:
First prize: Christina Perri ’16 (Holbrook, N.Y.) for “It’s MY Body: The Biomedical Ethics of Cell and Organ Harvest.”
Second prize: Alyssa Kinney ’16 (Berlin, N.H.) for “The Education Gap.”
Third prize (tie): Kailyn Jennings ’16 (Pulaski, N.Y.) for “Privacy Versus Safety: A Democratic Nation’s Struggle to Find a Balance” and Nicholas Tavares ’16 (Seekonk, Mass.) for “The Injustice of Ignorance.”
Read The Cowl story, "Freshman Essay Contest Winners Selected."
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Selected for Class of 2016
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Crown, 2010) was read by all incoming members of the Class of 2016 and new transfers as this year’s Freshman Common Reading Program (FCRP) selection.
The book was given to new students at their Advising Day sessions, which begin in June.
[History of the Program]
Now in its second year, the FCRP was created to establish a stimulating environment for incoming students that would set the tone for intellectual engagement throughout their time at PC. The program also provides opportunities for an enhanced Academic Convocation, which includes involving the larger College community in the program.
In The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, author Rebecca Skloot tells the story of a poor, Southern tobacco farmer whose life was cut short by cervical cancer. Before she died, however, her cells were taken without her knowledge.
Those cells would become one of the most important tools in the history of medicine. Though Henrietta Lacks died more than 60 years ago, her “immortal” cells would help create the polio vaccine, uncover secrets of cancer, and lead to important medical advances like in vitro fertilization and cloning.
Skloot recounts Henrietta’s journey from childhood to death, delves into the Lacks family's past and present, and explains the scientific impact of her cells.
In the process of telling the story, Skloot touches on many subjects, including the history of experimentation on African-Americans and the birth of bioethics.