University Apologizes After Using Black Children’s Bones As ‘Case Study’

An Ivy League institution has offered an apology after using the bones of Black children killed in a police bombing in Philadelphia in 1985 in a forensics class. 

The remains of victims of the MOVE bombing were used as a “case study” in an online course titled “Real Bones: Adventures in Forensic Anthropology,” taught to students of Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania. Though the bones have never been positively identified, The Guardian reported they most likely belong to one or two girls, a 14-year-old or a 12-year-old, both of whom parents are still alive. 

Protesters gathered outside of the Penn Museum on Wednesday (April 28) demanding the institution return the remains to the family. “Someone who died in 1985 whose mother is still alive...should not be part of a collection. That’s not history,” YahNé Ndgo, a protester, said. “We are not subjects of study, we are human beings!”

Following news of the course and backlash, the University of Pennsylvania apologized. 

“The Penn Museum and the University of Pennsylvania apologize to the Africa family and the members of our community for allowing human remains recovered from the MOVE house to be used for research and teaching, and for retaining the remains for far too long,” said a statement from the university Provost Wendell Pritchett and Christopher Woods, director of the school’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. 

“The Museum has promised to reassess our practices of collecting, stewarding, displaying, and researching human remains, and we are committed to this promise. It is now obvious, however, that this reassessment must also include how human remains are used in teaching as well as a comprehensive review of the holdings and collection practices of our Physical Anthropology section,” the statement added. 

The course is no longer available and its class preview has been removed from YouTube. 

Photos: Getty Images

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