There was very little that could be said about the 19 people who were eulogized on Saturday morning in a service at the University of Pennsylvania. Their names were lost, and not much about their lives was known beyond the barest facts: an old age spent in the poorhouse, a problem with cavities. They were Black people who had died in obscurity over a century ago, now known almost entirely by the skulls they left behind. Even some of these scant facts have been contested.

Much more could be said about what led to the service. “This moment,” said the Rev. Jesse Wendell Mapson, a local pastor involved in planning the commemoration and interment of the 19, “has not come without some pain, discomfort and tension.”

On this everyone could agree.

The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, like cultural and research institutions worldwide, has been grappling with a legacy of plunder, trying to decide what to do about artifacts and even human bones that were collected from people and communities against their will and often without their knowledge.

The museum plans to repatriate hundreds of craniums from all over the world, but the process has been fraught from the beginning. Its first step — the entombment at a nearby cemetery of the skulls of Black Philadelphians found in the collection — has drawn heavy criticism, charged by activists and some experts with being rushed and opaque.

source

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

Trump Indictment Presents New Obstacle in Spending Fight as Shutdown Looms

The political furor over the indictment this week of former President Donald…

Inexpensive Add-on Spawns a New Era of Machine Guns

Caison Robinson, 14, had just met up with a younger neighbor on…

The Iowa State Fair Continues Friday, as Republican Candidates Seek a Moment

The butter cow is carved. The pork chops are prepped. And the…

Company Recalls Ice Cream Products Over Listeria Contamination Concerns

An ice cream company based in Brooklyn has issued a recall of…