Lincoln University to Host Viewing Party for ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’

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LINCOLN UNIVERSITY, Pa. – Lincoln University will host a student viewing party of the film “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” a film that tells the true story of a black woman – Henrietta Lacks – whose genes became the basis of scientific breakthroughs, all without her knowledge.

Photo courtesy of RebeccaSkloot.com.

The viewing party will take place during the film’s HBO premier at 8 p.m. on April 22 in the student lounges of McRary and Rendall halls.  More locations are forthcoming.

According to a New York Times story published on April 12, the book of the same name by Rebecca Skloot’s was a “publishing and scientific sensation earlier this decade that spent 75 weeks on the New York Times paperback nonfiction best-seller list.”

According to the New York Times, “The book told the story of an African-American woman named Henrietta Lacks whose ‘immortal’ cell line, known as HeLa, came from her cervical cancer cells in 1951.”

“HeLa emerged as one of the most widely used lines in medical research and helped establish the multibillion-dollar vaccine industry, cancer treatment and in vitro fertilization industry. This was all done without the knowledge of, consent from or any compensation paid to Lacks’s family as it struggled with racism and poverty in Baltimore.”

The Lincoln University viewing party resulted from a conference call -- led by one of the film’s actresses, Oprah Winfrey -- that Patricia Ramsey, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, participated in along with more than 1,000 clergy and community leaders.

Ramsey said that during the call Winfrey expressed that even though Winfrey had lived in Baltimore and had participated in religious groups and was a member of the media, she hadn’t heard of Henrietta Lacks.

Winfrey expressed that if she wasn’t familiar with that story, others might not be familiar with it as well, so she decided to make it into a film, Ramsey said of the call.

Learn more about the film at the Rebecca Skloot’s website.