Independent report on handling of MOVE bombing victims’ remains attempts to clear Penn of fault

Penn Museum handed over the remains of the MOVE bombing victims to MOVE members July 2, according to the report.

By: - August 25, 2021 12:51 pm

Protesters on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania in April 2020 (Philadelphia Tribune photo).

By Michael D’Onofrio

PHILADELPHIA — The results of  independent investigation into the University of Pennsylvania Museum’s handling of human remains of members of the Black revolutionary group MOVE killed in a 1985 bombing attempted to clear Penn Museum and its leadership of any fault Wednesday.

The 217-page report said that the Penn Museum did not have a policy on the “retention, display or use of the MOVE remains and other non-accessioned remains as demonstrative artifacts or for other purposes.”

The report said that “no one in a leadership position” at the museum “believed that having the remains at the Museum and their display to students, donors and others violated any Museum policies.”

The report also attempted to clear Alan Mann, the former physical anthropologist professor at the university hired by the city to help in the identification of the remains, and Janet Monge, who assisted Mann and later retained and exhibited the human remains.

The report said Mann and Monge did not violate any specific professional, ethical or legal standards by retaining the remains.

But the report rebuked Mann and Monge for “extremely poor judgement, and a gross insensitivity to the human dignity as well as the social and political implications” of their conduct.

The investigation found “no evidence” that the university’s administrator or officers were aware that Monge had the remains or displayed them.

The report, which Tucker Law Group compiled for the University of Pennsylvania and museum, shed more light on the controversy.

The investigation found that only the remains of a single MOVE member killed in the 1985 bombing were housed at the Penn Museum, noting there was “no credible evidence” that the remains of a second child were housed there.

The report found there was a “reasonable degree of certainty” that human remains of an unidentified MOVE member were used in a 2019 online course, but noted that “the identity of the remains used in the video is still a matter of legitimate dispute.”

The investigation attempted to dispute previous reporting that the remains used in the video were of a specific MOVE child killed in the bombing.

The report also revealed that efforts were made to identify the human remains used in the online video “with the goal of returning them to MOVE family members.”

Penn Museum handed over the remains of the MOVE bombing victims to MOVE members July 2, according to the report.

May marked the 36th anniversary of the police bombing.

On May 13, 1985, the Philadelphia police laid siege to MOVE’s fortified rowhouse at 6221 Osage Ave. following a violent confrontation between law enforcement and members of the Black liberation and revolutionary group.

Police fired thousands of rounds of ammunition into the house and dropped a bomb on the house. City officials allowed the resulting blaze to burn. The fire killed 11 members of the MOVE group, five of them children, and destroyed more than 60 homes.

The MOVE members who died that day were: John Africa, Raymond Africa, Conrad Africa, CP, Frank Africa, Rhonda Africa, Theresa Africa, Katricia “Tree” Dotson, Delisha Africa, Phil Africa and Tomaso Africa. Members of the MOVE organization all took the surname Africa.

Recommendations

The report laid out seven recommendations for the university and museum.

The report called for the university to set up a permanent public installation about the MOVE bombing at the school and establish a scholarship program for graduates of Philadelphia public high schools and charters located in the 19142 and 19143 ZIP codes in West Philadelphia.

The report also called for the Penn Museum to hire a chief diversity officer; conduct a review of all holdings and collections practices of the museum’s physical anthropology sections; and reassess its policies around the possession and use of human remains.

The report called for starting a committee to help the university with its relationship with the West Philadelphia community.

The report also recommended the creation and hiring of an expert to help with the analysis of human remains, who has a record of advocacy for Black and Indigenous people and in reparation requests.

How did the remains get to Penn Museum and what happened to them?

After the 1985 bombing, a dispute arose between the city’s Medical Examiner’s Office and the city’s MOVE Commission over the identity of two sets of remains of MOVE children, who were killed in the assault, according to the report.

The MOVE commission’s experts believed the remains were of children: Katricia Africa and Delisha Africa.

The city’s Medical Examiner’s Office hired and handed over some of the bombing victims’ remains to Alan Mann, a physical anthropologist professor at the university, whom the office hired as a private consultant to assist in identifying the remains, according to the report.

Mann disputed the conclusions of the commission’s experts that the remains were of Katricia and Delisha, according to the report.

In 1986, Mann took a set of remains believed to be those of Katricia to his office at the Penn Museum to conduct further tests, according to the report. The report said there was no evidence Mann took the remains of what were believed to be Delisha.

The report found that “Mann and Monge did not believe that the remains taken to the Museum could be conclusively identified as those of Katricia Africa.”

Mann did not conduct further tests of the set of human remains he retained after 1986, according to the report. He stored the human remains in his office until 2001, when he retired from the university to join Princeton University.

Mann left the human remains at the Penn Museum when he joined Princeton, according to the report.

The report found that Mann made no effort to return the remains to the city’s medical examiner or contact MOVE family members.

The report found the remains of MOVE members were not “formally added” to the museum’s collection.

Between 2001 and 2014, the remains were stored in a file cabinet in Monge’s office, according to the report. Monge is now the Penn Museum’s associate curator. She was a graduate assistant under Mann when he retained the remains.

Then between 2014 and 2021, the remains were stored in Monge’s lab at the museum, according to the report.

The report found that in 1995 and again in 2014, Monge sought to identify and return the remains. She contacted two members of MOVE, who “refused to help” Monge, the report found.

Monge exhibited the remains on at least 10 occasions between 2014 and 2019 to graduate students, donors, and Penn Museum personnel, according to the report.

Monge used the remains as a case study in an online video course for Princeton University in 2019, where she taught as a visiting professor, according to the report.

The report found that Monge did not inform or obtain consent from MOVE members to use the remains in the online course.

But the report found that Monge did not violate “any specific professional, ethical or legal standards by retaining and displaying the remains.”

The report found that “several persons” were aware that the remains of MOVE bombing victims were at the museum, including a former director and deputy director of the museum.

Michael D’Onofrio is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared

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