Oprah's HBO Film Will Finally Tell The Story Of Henrietta

Oprah’s HBO Film Will Finally Tell The Story Of Henrietta Lacks

Henrietta Lacks was a poor tobacco farmer whose cells changed the medical field forever.

02/14/2017 03:11 pm ET

Oprah Winfrey and Rose Byrne star in the film, which tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, the African-American woman whose cells were unknowingly used to create the first “immortal” human cell line.

Both the book and the film chronicle an investigation led by journalist Skloot and Lacks’ daughter, Deborah Lacks, to find out how her mother’s cancerous cells were harvested in 1951 with no authorization. Henrietta Lacks was a poor tobacco farmer, but her cells ― known as HeLa ― would subsequently change the medical field forever. 

The film will premiere in April on HBO.


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Henrietta Lacks

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Henrietta Lacks
A black-and-white photo of Lacks smiling
Henrietta Lacks circa 1945–1951
BornLoretta Pleasant
(1920-08-01)August 1, 1920
Roanoke, Virginia
DiedOctober 4, 1951(1951-10-04) (aged 31)
Baltimore, Maryland
MonumentsHenrietta Lacks Health and Bioscience High School; historical marker at Clover, Virginia
OccupationTobacco farmer
Heightaround 5 ft tall[1]
Spouse(s)David Lacks (1941–1951; her death)
ChildrenLawrence Lacks
Elsie Lacks
David "Sonny" Lacks, Jr.
Deborah Lacks Pullum
Zakariyya Bari Abdul Rahman (born Joseph Lacks)
Parent(s)Eliza (1886–1924) and John Randall Pleasant I (1881–1969)

Henrietta Lacks (born Loretta Pleasant; August 1, 1920 – October 4, 1951[2]) was an African American woman who was the progenitor of the HeLa cell line, one of the most important cell lines in medical research ever discovered.[a] She was the unwitting donor of these cells from a cancerous tumor biopsied during treatment for her cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S. in 1951. These cells were then cultured by George Otto Gey to create the cell line known as HeLa, a line which is still used for medical research.[4]

The descendant of slaves and their white masters, Henrietta grew up in rural Virginia. After giving birth to two of their children, she married her cousin David "Day" Lacks. In 1941 the young family moved to Turner Station in Baltimore County, Maryland so Day could work in Bethlehem Steel at Sparrows Point. After Henrietta had given birth to their fifth child she was diagnosed with cancer.[5] Tissue samples from her tumors were taken during treatment and these samples were then subsequently cultured into the HeLa cell line.

Even though some information about the origins of HeLa's immortalized cell lines was known to researchers after 1970, the Lacks family was not made aware of the lines' existence until 1975. In the intervening years, with knowledge of the cell lines' genetic provenance becoming public, the usage of the cells for medical research and for commercial purposes continues to raise concerns about privacy and patients' rights.

 Just a little bit more about Henrietta Lacks.  These are the stories massa keep from us.  As why education is soooooooooo important for our culture.  Our children must know how brilliant we are....in EVERYTHING we do.  These cells were able to stay alive in order to do research...do you know how much that is in terms of usage.  But this doctor stole it from one of her tumors and kept it without permission.  See  how they do us?  And this cell line was a milestone in medicine and research and her family are denied compensation?  Saying that the doctor didn't make profit off of it.   We know what this is...right?  A bold face lie.  Testimony of massa taking everything...I mean everything from us and then lying about it.  We have to begin to take care of our culture...first!  By self-care.  But!

I wonder if her relatives ever settled their lawsuit, and if they now have 'custody' over her genes/cells.

For the doctor to steal her cells, take them without her knowledge and permission, and profit from his dirty deed, I would say that it is a form of Slavery, that the doctor kidnapped her cells and has been holding them hostage on a medical/'science' Plantation, and that her family deserves Reparations for the doctor's actions.



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