Roanoke Hidden Histories - Roanoke, VA

Roanoke Hidden Histories

The Roanoke Hidden Histories project acknowledges African American history in the community’s public spaces. It focuses on acknowledging and documenting painful and troubling aspects of our shared history, as well as celebrating Black achievement in the community, while bringing this overlooked history to life.

Roanoke Hidden Histories is a volunteer-led effort, partnered with the Harrison Museum of African American Culture as its fiscal agent.

Henrietta Lacks - SketchThe project consists of two main components: development of a virtual education tool that emphasizes “hidden history” at five community locations and the creation of a sculpture of Henrietta Lacks at the City’s Lacks Plaza in Downtown Roanoke.

The first physical project, a sculpture of Henrietta Lacks, honors the Roanoke native who unknowingly provided the world with the HeLa cell, fueling decades of life-saving and life changing research.

The bronze sculpture of Lacks will be designed by local artists Bryce Cobbs of Roanoke and Larry Bechtel of Blacksburg.

Roanoke is honored to have the blessing of Henrietta Lacks' family for this project.

"Roanoke is the first to reach out to Henrietta Lacks' estate. This is a big deal," stated Ron Lacks, son of Lawrence Lacks and grandson of Henrietta Lacks.

The virtual reality component of the project will be used as an educational tool and is being developed through a partnership with Richmond’s Hidden in Plain Site (HIPS).

Hidden in Plain Site is a virtual reality (VR) exploration of distinct, but easy to overlook sites that tell the story of the Black experience throughout history. 

Featuring actual examples from various angles and ages, these sites will be brought to life through current appearance augmented with historical imagery. The goal is to inform and educate while changing how residents and visitors see and experience their city.

Roanoke Hidden Histories

Hidden in Plain Site

Harrison Museum of African American Culture - Roanoke, VA

The Roanoke Hidden Histories project wouldn't be possible without the support of many generous donors.

A 3-day itinerary of Black history & culture in Virginia's Blue Ridge, showcasing local black-owned businesses and places of interest.

A book about the incredible untold story and life of Henrietta Lacks, written by her grandson Ron Lacks.