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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Henrietta Lacks

Photo: Otis Wilson.

Sculptor: Helen Wilson-Roe

Founder: Wolf & Stone Ltd

Materials: Bronze

Unveiled: 4 October 2021

Henrietta Lacks

Henrietta Lacks (1920-1951) was a young Black African American mother, who died from aggressive cervical cancer. Her cancerous cells, the first human ones to live and continue to reproduce outside a body, were known as Hela cells. These cells were harvested for medical research without her or her family’s knowledge or consent, and it was only in 1975 that by chance the family found out about her amazing legacy. This raises ethical issues, but the use of her cells has led to many breakthroughs in medicine such as polio vaccine, improving gene mapping and even research into Covid-19. This life-size bronze statue entitled Mother of Modern Medicine is by local sculptor, Helen Wilson-Roe. It was commissioned by Bristol University and is the first statue of a black woman by a black woman to be erected permanently in a public space in the UK. The inscription on the integral base states ‘Henrietta Lacks/1920-1951/More than a cell/To all the unrecognised Black Women who have/contributed to humanity, you will never be forgotten.’

Location: Royal Fort Gardens, University of Bristol.