The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), and Princeton University have, for decades, manhandled the remains of 12-year-old Tree and 14-year-old Delisha Africa in the name of “anthropology,” i.e. colonial scientific study.
Physical anthropologist Dr. Alan Mann, a former UPenn professor now at Princeton, stole these children’s remains, traveled with them across state lines and used them in his classrooms, allowing students to study and write about them without the consent of their family.
In a Princeton online video, Penn Museum Associate Curator Janet Monge holds Tree’s bones and calls them “juicy,” 36 years after Tree and 10 of her family members were murdered by the State without a second thought.
This goes beyond racism. This is colonial violence.
This is genocide!
On Thursday, May 13th at Malcolm X Park in West Philadelphia, members and supporters of the MOVE family held a memorial. At the mic, the speaker held a placard with the names of the 6 adults and 5 children who were murdered by the Philadelphia police
It has been 36 years since the City of Philadelphia dropped a bomb on MOVE, an African liberation organization, murdering 11 people including five children.
It has now come to light that Penn Museum.
The legacy of colonial anthropological violence against African people
In the early 19th century, a Khoikhoi woman from Occupied Azania (South Africa) named Sarah Baartman was kidnapped and displayed in European freak show attractions.
She was enslaved, treated like an animal and colonially objectified.
She died on December 29, 1815 around 40 years old. Georges Cuvier, “founder” of comparative anatomy, dissected her body but didn’t conduct an autopsy to find out why she died.
Her body was exhibited even after death. Her brain, skeleton and sexual organs were on display in a Paris museum until 1974, and her remains weren’t repatriated until 2002, almost 200 years after she died.
UPenn has blood on its hands
In 2017, a group of Penn undergraduates founded the Penn & Slavery Project to investigate UPenn’s connections with chattel slavery. Considering that UPenn is a colonial institution of “higher learning,” the following findings are unsurprising:
- UPenn’s founders, early trustees and faculty members were enslavers according to 18th century tax records.
- Early administrators solicited donations from enslavers in the Caribbean to get out of financial trouble (akin to how Europe attacked Africa to escape feudalism and poverty by creating a global parasitic economy: colonial capitalism).
- UPenn’s School of Medicine was funded by Southern plantation owners and the first students were offspring of enslavers. UPenn medical faculty and graduates also developed racial theories informed by a colonial mindset to justify slavery.
- The owner/architect of UPenn’s first campus located at 4th and Arch Street in Old City has ties to slavery. After chattel slavery had been abolished, UPenn moved its campus to West Philadelphia with many buildings still named after enslavers.
UPenn is founded on genocide, slavery and colonialism just like the U.S. UPenn has blood on its hands!
And so does Penn Museum
Dr. Samuel Morton grave robbed scores of human skulls that culminated in “The Morton Cranial Collection” at Penn Museum.
Morton was a Philadelphia scientist, settler and white nationalist who legitimized chattel slavery by arguing that differences in skull size correlated with intellectual capacity.
Fifty-three of these skulls belong to enslaved Africans with some displayed in glass cabinets at Penn Museum.
Abdul-Aliy Muhammad, a local African organizer, created a Change.org petition and wrote an op-ed calling for repatriation and reparations in 2019.
Then after the murder of George Floyd last year, an abolitionist group called Police Free Penn formed. They reiterated Muhammad’s demands. vInstead of meeting the demands, Penn created a committee to “look into” repatriation and reparations.
Then, UPenn anthropology graduate student Paul Wolff Mitchell looked into the cranial collection and found that in addition to the skulls of enslaved Africans, the collection also houses 14 skulls of black Philadelphians from a burial ground on top of which UPenn built a sports stadium called Franklin Field—similar to the Tropicana Field Dome in St. Petersburg, FL.
This year in late April, mere days after Penn apologized for “unethical possession” and display of these crania (i.e. colonial theft, pillage, and plunder), it came out that they possessed the remains of Tree and Delisha Africa.
How could this be?
Delisha’s parents, Delbert and Janet Africa, and Tree’s mother, Consuela Africa, were imprisoned when they were murdered. Consequently, there was no next of kin who were able to claim their remains.
So the State decided to hand over those remains to Pennsylvania state senator Freeman Hankins who supposedly buried Delisha on September 22, 1986, according to Muhammad.
Tree’s family outside of jail held a ceremonial funeral in November 1985 because they still had not received the remains by then.
Then in December 1985, they were told that Tree was supposedly buried near her sister Netta.
Fast forward 36 years later and we learn that Princeton’s Alan Mann had them.
The power of truth is final
To add more insult to this indignity, Sam Gulino M.D. from the Philadelphia medical examiner’s office held the other murdered MOVE members’ remains since the 1985 bombing that engulfed their home and 61 others in the African community of West Philadelphia in flames.
Then in 2017, the now former Philadelphia health commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley ordered to incinerate what was left of the 11 MOVE victims without informing their family.
Gulino was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation and Farley resigned on the 36th anniversary of the bombing.
And in a twist no one expected, a subordinate disobeyed Farley’s order, and a box with the remains was found, according to Leon A. Williams, an attorney for the family of the MOVE victims.
This is domestic terrorism
Directly after the bombing, Philadelphia officials aimed four high-pressure water cannons and unloaded more than 10,000 rounds into MOVE’s home, preventing them from escaping and ensuring their imminent death.
This is counterinsurgency. MOVE was targeted because of their African liberation, animal rights and environmental justice politic.
They were bombed to show African people worldwide what happens when you get organized and resist your oppression.
And in the wake of this atrocity, it was the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) that came to Philadelphia saying, “Reinforcements are on the way!”
Talk is cheap; Reparations now! An apology and “investigation” are not enough!
Everyone involved in this colonial crime against humanity needs to be tried by a Black People’s Grand Jury and imprisoned!
The City of Philadelphia owes reparations to MOVE and all African people!
The remains of Tree, Delisha, Netta, Tomaso, Rhonda, Conrad, Theresa, Frank, Raymond and John Africa must be repatriated!
Free Mumia Abu Jamal, African freedom fighter and journalist who covered MOVE prior to his incarceration!
And the revolutionary demand for Black Community Control of the Police must be met!