At a time when some schools across the U.S. are rethinking their names or mascots, one high school in Vancouver is driven by its name.
You can read the headlines about schools ditching Confederate-inspired names from the Civil War. Or swapping out names of presidents who favored prejudiced policies. But Henrietta Lacks Health and Bioscience High School, isn’t only comfortable with its name, it’s proud of it, said Julie Tumelty, the school’s principal since it opened in 2013.
The high school is the first public building in the country named after Lacks, a black cancer patient who had cells taken from her body without consent in 1951. She died at age 31 that same year. Her cells ended up as the most widely used human cells in scientific research. The high school chose her name instead of Mother Joseph.
“We’re a school who wants to honor the legacy of this woman, who never had a chance to be honored when she was alive,” Tumelty said.
Tumelty called Lacks’ story “fascinating,” since it carries the complexity of unethical medical research that helped lead to medical advancements.