Let Us Speak Of Penn And Its Skull Collection

Let Us Speak Of Penn And Its Skull Collection

By Bob Small

Our great University of Pennsylvania was founded in 1751 by Benjamin Franklin as America’s first university. Franklin’s last public act was to send to Congress a petition on behalf of the Pennsylvania Abolitionist Society asking for the abolition of slavery and an end to the slave trade.

Over the years, Penn has been responsible for producing many famous people and has otherwise contributed to the betterment of our society. However, one of its darkest continuing chapters began in 1830 and may be continuing.

Samuel Morton (1799-1851) Samuel George Morton (1799-1851) variously described as an anatomist, natural historian and, most importantly, a craniologist began in 1830 the gathering of the world’s largest collection of skulls, some 1,000.

Morton believed in the now -discredited theory of polygenism which considered the Bible to be incomplete. According to this, God created numerous races, rather than one man, the commonly accepted Biblical interpretation.

His research — which declared that Europeans had bigger brains than Africans — was meant to prove that Blacks were an inferior race.

When Darwin’s Origin of Species came out in 1859 it helped to discredit Morton’s theories.

Now, what to do with a collection of 1,000 skulls, the majority of which were black and/or from the Blockley Almshouse,a Quaker sponsored poor house. This later became Philadelphia General Hospital .

In 1966, the collection was moved to The Penn Museum Morton Cranial Collection.

They were finally buried on Feb. 3.

The delay and way the remains were put to rest, however, has led to blistering criticism.

As per a scathing article in The Guardian:

 Outside researchers and activists have accused the museum of ignoring the wishes of the local Black community, which wanted a more thorough investigation into the identity of the 19 individuals, who remain unidentified before their bones were interred, and for the Penn Museum to loosen its control over the restitution process.

The interment was at Collingdale’s Eden Cemetery, which is in Delco and not West Philly, and the Finding Ceremony and were not included in the process.

None of the esteemed graduates of this “Poison Ivy League” school, such as Ed Rendell or Mary Gay Scanlon, ever thought to comment on this.

Morton, Pa. is named after Major Sketchley Morton, a Revolutionary War officer and the son of John Morton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence .

Let Us Speak Of Penn And Its Skull Collection

Let Us Speak Of Penn And Its Skull Collection

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