Relatives of Henrietta Lacks to speak at Book-in-Common program

Two relatives of the late Henrietta Lacks will be featured speakers at Texas Woman’s University’s Book-in-Common program on Nov. 7.

Lacks, the subject of the #1 New York Times Bestseller, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, was a poor, African-American farmer whose cells were taken without her knowledge in 1951 for medical research. The cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning and gene mapping, among other advances. The cells were bought and sold for research, but without the Lacks family’s knowledge.

The book eventually was adapted for a TV movie in 2017, which also drew critical acclaim.

Among the family members who will be featured at the TWU speaking event will be Lacks’ great-granddaughter, Victoria Baptiste, a nephrology nurse who travels regularly to talk about the Lacks family’s story. As a patient advocate, Baptiste prides herself on treating patients with respect and dignity, and making sure they understand their care.

The other featured speaker is Shirley Lacks, who is the daughter-in-law to Henrietta Lacks. Shirley Lacks retired from the banking industry and has devoted much of her time to traveling around the country and keeping her mother-in-law’s legacy alive. Shirley Lacks also has been a vocal advocate for patients’ rights. 

The event will be in Room 101 of the Multipurpose Classroom and Laboratory Building from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. A book-signing event will immediately follow the speaking engagement.

The TWU Book-in-Common program is a university-wide initiative developed to foster a learning environment focused on the success of students to live, work and lead in a diverse and complex world.  The program promotes awareness and appreciation for the richness that is brought by embracing all forms of diversity and multicultural perspectives.

Media Contact

Matt Flores
Assistant Vice President, University Communications

Page last updated 11:07 AM, July 5, 2022