Statue of Henrietta Lacks makes history as it is unveiled

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Statue of Henrietta Lacks makes history as it is unveiled
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The statue of Henrietta Lacks made history as it was installed in the UK on Monday.

It marked the major milestone of the first public sculpture of a black woman made by a black woman in the UK.

Bristol-based artist Helen Wilson-Roe was the mastermind behind the statue.

It marked the 70th anniversary of Ms Lacks’ death at Royal Fort House in Bristol.

She got her name the “mother” of modern medicine after her cancer cells changed the path of modern medicine forever when they were taken from her with consent.

The statue of Henrietta Lacks is the first statue in the UK of a black woman to have been created by a black woman (Ben Birchall/PA) (PA Wire)
The statue of Henrietta Lacks is the first statue in the UK of a black woman to have been created by a black woman (Ben Birchall/PA) (PA Wire)

The young mother had died from an aggressive form of cervical cancer in 1951 but a sample of her cells survived.

They became known as HeLa cells and they are used in almost every major hospital in the world.

IVF treatment, the polio vaccine and gene mapping were born out of the discovery.

Lacks’ granddaughter Jeri Lacks said: “As the world celebrates Henrietta Lacks’ centennial, my family eagerly anticipates the unveiling of this tribute to Henrietta Lacks the woman – and her phenomenal HeLa cells.

“It is incredible to see our Hennie rightfully honoured for her worldwide impact.”

The statue is to be unveiled at the University of Bristol in a ceremony later.

Artist Helen Wilson-Roe, who was commissioned to create the statue, said: “This is the university offering more than lip service or tokenistic gestures, but actually committing to supporting a black female artist by sustaining my art and recognising Henrietta Lacks.

“As a child growing up in Bristol there were no statues of black women that I could identify with so knowing that my children and their grandchildren and great grandchildren will be able to see Henrietta’s statue in Bristol is just fantastic, especially at this time when Bristol is starting to address its past.”

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