Bones of Black Children Killed by Police Used as Teaching Tool in Princeton Course

The bones of at least one and possibly two Black children killed in a police bombing in 1985 have been in the custody of two universities for decades as a teaching tool and are now apparently missing.

Philadelphia police dropped a bomb from a helicopter onto a residential home occupied by members of MOVE, a Black liberation organization, on May 13, 1985, killing eleven people, including five children from the ages of 7 to 14. All members of MOVE take "Africa" as their surname.

It has now emerged that children's bones recovered from the scene were placed in the custody of Alan Mann, who was then a professor at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) and who analyzed the bones at the request of Philadelphia Medical Examiner's Office, according to local outlet Billy Penn, which first reported the matter.

The remains were then stored at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology but when Mann moved to Princeton in 2001, he reportedly took the bones with him. He is now retired.

UPenn has said the bones were sent to researchers at Princeton but a spokesperson for Princeton told Billy Penn on Wednesday "we can confirm that no remains of the victims of the MOVE bombing are being housed at Princeton University."

The bones, which may be from one child or two children, feature in an online course currently bearing Princeton's name and offered through study platform Coursera.

The course is entitled " Real Bones: Adventures in Forensic Anthropology" and was filmed in February, 2019, according to The Guardian. The course was taught by Janet Monge, an adjunct professor in anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania who was also a visiting professor at Princeton.

Monge was a student at the University of Pennsylvania when the bones were given to Mann for analysis and she reportedly assisted him. Monge is no longer affiliated with Princeton.

The 1985 bombing features as a case study in Monge's course and she describes the bones as a pelvis and a femur probably belonging to a small teenage girl. They were used in the course without permission from the family and the course does not inform students of this. More than 5,000 students are enrolled.

"The bones are juicy, by which I mean you can tell they are the bones of a recently deceased individual," Monge says of the bones. "If you smell it, it doesn't actually smell bad – it smells kind of greasy, like an older-style grease."

The children to whom the bones belong have not been identified but given Monge's description, it is likely they are from one of the two older girls, Tree Africa and Delisha Africa, both of whom have mothers who are still alive.

"Nobody said you can do that, holding up their bones for the camera. That's not how we process our dead. This is beyond words. The anthropology professor is holding the bones of a 14-year-old girl whose mother is still alive and grieving," MOVE member Michael Africa Jr. told The Guardian. He was six-years-old at the time of the bombing.

Philadelphia City Council formally apologized for the bombing in November last year and established the anniversary of the event as "an annual day of observation, reflection and recommitment."

Newsweek has asked Princeton, UPenn and MOVE for comment on this article.

A Human Femur Examined in 2015
A Colombian forensic expert grabs a human femur in the Center for Human Identification of the General Prosecutor's laboratory in Medellin, Antioquia department, Colombia on July 28, 2015. The femur of a small teenage girl is one of the bones featured in the Princeton course. RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images