The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

“Black scientists and technicians, many of them women, used cells from a black woman to help save the lives of millions of Americans, most of them white. And they did so in the same campus — and at the very same time — that state officials were conducting the infamous Tuskegee syphilis studies.” —The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

This quote begs the question: Why is it then I didn’t hear about Henrietta Lacks until later in my studies? I mean, the problems with the Tuskegee syphilis studies were drilled into our heads in first, second, and finally in third year of sociology-based courses. Was it because the Lacks’ case only directly involved one person, a poor black woman, and nobody else (except her family)? Why have I only heard it about recently and in my women’s studies class? That’s my issue with sociology as a whole area of study.


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