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Henrietta Lacks: The Immortal Mother of Modern Medicine Will Be Honored in the Smithsonian

Black Women in History

Henrietta Lacks: The Immortal Mother of Modern Medicine Will Be Honored in the Smithsonian

 

By Maiysha Kai via https://theglowup.theroot.com

Here’s a fitting Mother’s Day tribute: A portrait of the woman responsible for some of the greatest research of the 20th and 21st centuries—including polio and in vitro fertilization—will now be featured in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.

We're proud to share this Kadir Nelson portrait of Henrietta Lacks with our friends at @NMAAHC . The striking posthumous portrait was inspired by two surviving photographs that are now in the possession of her family. Commissioned by HBO on the occasion of the HBO movie premiere of "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball, Nelson wrote of the portrait, “I elected to paint a prideful and glowing portrait of Henrietta Lacks, who is often referred to as, ‘The Mother of Modern Medicine,’ visually juxtaposing art and science. She stands with her beautifully manicured hands crossed, covering her womb (the birthplace of the immortal cell line) while cradling her beloved Bible (a symbol of her strong faith). Her deep red dress is covered with a vibrant floral pattern that recalls images of cell structure and division.” Other symbolism includes her bright yellow hat, which functions as a halo, her pearls as a symbol of the cancer that took her life, and the repeated hexagonal wallpaper pattern, a design containing the “Flower of Life,” an ancient symbol of immortality and exponential growth. The buttons missing from her dress reference the cells that were taken from her body without her permission #myNPG

A post shared by National Portrait Gallery (@smithsoniannpg) on

Henrietta Lacks was a Virginia woman who was diagnosed with and died of aggressive cervical cancer in 1951, and subsequently had her cells harvested by doctors at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital without her family’s knowledge or consent. Her story—and that of her still-reproducing cells, nicknamed “HeLa”—became well-known in 2o10 because of science writer and researcher Rebecca Skloot, who wrote a …

Read More: Henrietta Lacks: The Immortal Mother of Modern Medicine Will Be Honored in the Smithsonian

Chrysalis

I am a future butterfly at the stage of growth when I am turning into an adult. I am enclosed in a hard case shell formed by love, family, and friends. It is the hardest stage of becoming a black butterfly. You will encounter many hardships only to come out stronger and better than what you went in. At this stage, you are finding out who you truly are and how to love yourself.

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