Lacks “was a poor and largely illiterate Virginia tobacco farmer, the great-great-granddaughter of slaves.” (1). Lacks was uneducated and grew up harvesting crops, following the “norm” for African Americans during the nineteen hundreds.
On January 29, 1951, Lacks took herself to John Hopkins Hospital, the only hospital close by that would treat African Americans. Lacks entered the hospital through the ‘colored’ only doors, and was taken to the ‘negro’ section of the hospital where she had to drink from the ‘colored’ water fountain. The early nineteen hundreds was packed with racism and sexism, explaining why Lacks had to go to the colored side, because she was an African American. Lacks was looked at and checked by white male doctors who worked at John Hopkins. At first, doctors had no idea what was wrong with Henrietta until one day her doctor, Howard Jones, noticed the small lump inside Henrietta’s cervix that she had been talking about. Howard Jones took two samples from her cervix tissue; one from the tumor and one from the non tumorous side. Henrietta was then put through multiple radiation treatments for her cancerous tumor while having many surgeries to cut away at the tumor. Henrietta did not react well to many of the radiations, causing her to break out in black blotches all over her body. "The skin from Henrietta's breasts to her pelvis was charred a deep black from the radiation"(48). Henrietta continued to go back to John’s Hopkins for check ups and x-rays, but no one had ever asked Henrietta or told her that the doctors were collecting her cells and using them in advanced research to find out if they were immortal.
Henrietta Lacks was placed into the negro section at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. Doctors took her cells without her consent and proceeded to do extensive research to her cells. One would wonder if the doctors at John Hopkins took Henrietta’s cells because she was an African American women, or if they “took any cells they could get their hands on” (book p. 30). John Hopkins Hospital consisted of all white male doctors, signifying that women who were white or of a different race could not work there or anywhere. Women could work and have jobs but their jobs were mostly house work or hard and intensive labour such as working in the fields.
When Henrietta walked into John Hopkins Hospital for the first time, she