The Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology plans to re-burp the skulls of 13 Black Philadelphians. A study to propagate white supremacism used the bodies of those 13 Black Philadelphians.
One activist in the committee believes that the museum should not decide on the fate of the skulls. He also urged the court to intervene in the decision.
The skulls belong to a collection of 1,300 human skulls collected by Samuel George Morton. He was a 19th-century Philadelphian physician. He believed that the Germans and English races were intellectually, morally, physically, and emotionally superior to other races.
History has since discredited his theories. Nevertheless, the skulls remained on display in the Penn museum.
In 2019, students at the university discovered that 53 of the skulls in the collections belonged to people enslaved in Havana and Cuba. Two of them enslaved Americans. This also led the museum to launch an investigation.
Archaeology Museum’s research went public in 2021. In the research, there are three steps that the museum plan on taking. The goal of the action is to return the skulls to the original descendants and the communities.
The archaeology museum went to the Morton Cranial Collection committee to guide further steps. The committee was responsible for carrying out a respectful burial of the skulls in the collection.
According to a spokesperson, the Penn Museum is petitioning Philadelphia’s probate court to bury the skulls at Eden Cemetery, a Black burial ground in the city.
Philadelphia activist and advisory member Abdul-Aliy Muhammad has also filed an objection against the petition.
“This lack of transparency and care indicates the problematic nature of Institutions complicit in possession of our ancestors’ remains, leading the process by which the remains are returned,” Muhammad posted on Twitter.
The museum, in a statement, said that the skulls became part of the collection under horrific conditions. Therefore, it is only right to rest them respectfully.