« The Roanoke Hidden Histories initiative unveiled its first monument on Wednesday. It was a bronze statue in the natural size of Henrietta Lacks, a black woman whose cells were used in several major medical breakthroughs.
The new statue replaces the Confederate General Robert E. Lee monument. Moreover, the square where it is placed was renamed, and it is called now ‘Henrietta Plaza’ instead of ‘Lee Plaza’.
Artist Bryce Cobbs, who drew Henrietta Lacks in natural size in the process of making a larger-than-life statue, was also present in the ceremony.
His father Reshan Cobbs noted that he is proud to attend the ceremony, as ‘it’s a piece of the city’s history’. « Today is Henrietta Lacks Day in Roanoke, Virginia, which I was a part of making that happen, so it’s full circle for me and my son to be on the same project gears, apart from each other, » the man added.
The initiative started in 2020, in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. The town hall in partnership with the Harrison Museum of African American Culture started fundraising with the idea of highlighting little-recognised, but no less important, figures from the city’s history.
Nothing could be more fitting than replacing the statue of a white Confederate general with that of a black woman who served as the basis for one of the most important medical research projects: the search for a cure for cancer.
Around 200,000 USD (190,425 EUR) were reportedly raised for the project. The money was used to cover the cost of the statue and a virtual reality documentary about the town’s history. »