It’s 1951 in Baltimore, Maryland, and Henrietta Lacks is deathly ill with cancer. But while doctors are treating her condition, they stealthily remove cell samples from her cervix. More than 60 years later, the results of this procedure are still saving lives – but at what cost to Lacks and her family?
Born Loretta Pleasance in the community of Roanoke, Virginia, on August 1, 1920, Lacks was part of a big family. But when she was just four years old, her mother Eliza passed away. Unable to cope with Lacks and her nine siblings, her father Johnny spread the children out between their relatives.
For Lacks, who was now going by the nickname Hennie, this meant a move to Clover, VA, where she was taken in by her grandfather. There, she lived in a log cabin – the former slave quarters of a plantation once owned by her white ancestors. And with limited space available, she was placed in the bedroom of her cousin, David Lacks.