Open today 10 am – 5 pm

Science and Race: History, Use and Abuse

August 31, 2016

Jill DiSanto, Public Relations Director


The Public Classroom @ Penn Museum:

Internationally Renowned Experts Come Together to Offer Free, Five Session Course, Open Access Documentary, and Discussion Tools, on Controversial Topic

Science and Race: History, Use and Abuse Begins September 21

Public Classroom

What is this thing called “race?” Scientists agree that many common assumptions about race are wrong—yet the consequences of racism are very real.

This fall, the Penn Museum, 3260 South Street on the University of Pennsylvania campus, brings together more than two dozen internationally recognized experts from diverse backgrounds for an in-depth and powerful exploration about race, science, and justice in a free series of five evening classes geared to adults and young adults (14 and above).

The Public Classroom @ Penn Museum: Science and Race: History, Use and Abuse runs non-consecutive Wednesdays, 6:30 to 9:30 pm, beginning September 21 (September 28; October 26; November 9; November 16). Individuals can sign up for one, several, or all sessions. Seating is limited and advance registration is recommended (program website goes live September 6):

For those who can’t attend the program at the Museum, there will be live streaming of the program on the website.

Each Science and Race class features a panel of four to six experts, with questions led by moderators (including from public radio WHYY and African American talk radio WURD). Discussions on race are presented through the lenses of anthropology, biology, genetics, sociology, philosophy, and law. With each session, students engage in collection workshops featuring the Museum’s renowned Samuel Morton collection of more than 1,000 human crania collected from around the world in the 1800s. Reading materials and other online resources are provided, including materials and age-appropriate teaching tools for use with younger children.

The Public Classroom doesn’t end there. Tapping into the class interactions and the assembled University of Pennsylvania and outside experts, Penn’s Camra media program will develop and film an accompanying documentary on Science and Race, designed for middle school audiences and older, and available to all in 2017.

"The goal for this program is to use the unique collections of the Penn Museum—in this case the Morton Collection—as impetus for discussion through a contemporary lens. The multidisciplinary approach to explaining how science and race intersect allows visitors from diverse backgrounds to enter the content in accessible ways,” noted Kate Quinn, Director of Exhibitions and Public Programs.

"The project will ultimately capture the perspectives of our panelists in a full-length documentary. This, along with the class recordings, collection resources, class-related readings and activities, and quizzes will remain available on the website after the classes end, providing a resource and discussion tool for individuals, families, and communities in West Philadelphia and well beyond."

Dr. John L. Jackson, Jr., Dean of the School of Social Policy & Practice and the Richard Perry University Professor, University of Pennsylvania; Dr. Janet Monge, Associate Curator-in-Charge, Physical Anthropology Section, Penn Museum and Adjunct Professor of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania; and Dr. Deborah Thomas, Professor of Anthropology and Africana Studies, University of Pennsylvania, are the academic advisors principally responsible for developing the program.

“Over the last five years, graduate students from all across Penn have been conducting multimodal scholarship and organizing festivals, conferences, and seminars around cutting-edge work. They have formalized their efforts into CAMRA (, an initiative organized around creating visual and performative research projects, “ noted Dean Jackson. “The students of CAMRA have agreed to produce a documentary film based on this exciting and important public classroom. Indeed, the theme of CAMRA’s annual Screening Scholarship Media Festival this past March was Race, Media and Social Justice, which means that the topic of the Penn Museum’s public classroom dovetails quite nicely with the students’ interests and investments as scholars and media-makers.”

The Public Classroom @ Penn Museum—Science and Race: History, Use, and Abuse is supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. Program partners include the Campaign for Community, the School for Social Policy and Practice, and Camra at the University of Pennsylvania; and local radio stations WHYY and WURD.

Topics and Confirmed Panelists and Moderators:

September 21

Understanding the History of Race and Science

How did the concept of race originate, and does it have any scientific validity?

Janet Monge, Associate Curator-in-Charge, Physical Anthropology, Penn Museum, and Adjunct Professor, Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania
Michael Yudell, Chair and Associate Professor, Community Health and Prevention, Drexel University
Claudine Cohen, History and Philosophy of Science, Ecole de Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris, France
Rachel Watkins, Anthropology Professor, American University, Washington, D.C.

Moderator: Nichelle McKelvey-Polston, WHYY “First” reporter

September 28


Biomedicine and Race

Does racial background have an effect on the health of individuals or communities?

Caroline Rouse, Associate Anthropology Professor, Princeton University
Martha Farah, Annenberg Professor of Natural Sciences, Director of the Center for Neuroscience & Society, University of Pennsylvania
Dorothy Roberts, Director, Penn Program on Race, Science, and Society, University of Pennsylvania
Janet Monge, Associate Curator-in-Charge, Physical Anthropology, Penn Museum, and Adjunct Professor, Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania
John L. Jackson, Jr., Dean of the School of Social Policy & Practice and the Richard Perry University Professor, University of Pennsylvania
Jay Kaufman, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Epidemiology $ Biostatistics, McGill Centre on Populations Dynamics, McGill University

Moderator: Taunya English, Senior Health and Science Reporter, WHYY

October 26

Genetics and Race

What do evolution, diversity, and genes have to do with race?

Sarah Tishkoff, David and Lyn Silfen University Professor in Genetics and Biology, University of Pennsylvania
Quayshawn Spencer, Philosophy of Science, Philadelphia of Biology, Philosophy of Race, University of Pennsylvania
Amade M’charek, Professor of Anthropology of Science, University of Amsterdam
Theodore Shurr, Professor of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania
Fatimah Jackson, Professor of Biology, Director of the W. Montague Cobb Research Laboratory, Howard University

Moderator: Mike Adams, Interim Director, Digital News, WHYY

November 9

Geography, Culture, and Race

Is ancestry connected with race?

Camile Charles, Chair, Africana Studies; Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor of Sociology, Africana Studies and Education, University of Pennsylvania
Grace Kao, Professor of Sociology, Education, and Asian American Studies, University of Pennsylvania
Tukufu Zuberi, The Lasry Family Professor of Race Relations; Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies, University of Pennsylvania

Erin Kerrison, Vice Provost’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Criminology, University of Pennsylvania

November 16

Violence and Race

Is there a connection between patterns of violence and race?

Deborah A. Thomas, Professor of Anthropology and Africana Studies, University of Pennsylvania
Marie Gottschalk, Professor, Criminal Justice, Political Science Department, University of Pennsylvania
Christen Smith, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and African and African Diaspora Studies, University of Texas at Austin
John Hollway, Associate Dean and Executive Director of the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at the University of Pennsylvania Law School
Oliver Rollins, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Penn Program on Race, Science and Society, University of Pennsylvania

Moderator: Sara Lomax Reese, President and General Manager, WURD


About the Penn Museum

With its mission, “to transform understanding of the human experience,” the Penn Museum (the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) is dedicated to the study and understanding of human history and diversity. Founded in 1887, the Museum has sent more than 300 archaeological and anthropological expeditions to all the inhabited continents of the world. With an active exhibition schedule and educational programming for children and adults, the Museum offers the public an opportunity to share in the ongoing discovery of humankind's collective heritage.

The Penn Museum is located at 3260 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104 (on Penn's campus, across from Franklin Field). Public transportation to the Museum is available via SEPTA's Regional Rail Line at University City Station; the Market-Frankford Subway Line at 34th Street Station; trolley routes 11, 13, 34, and 36; and bus routes 21, 30, 40, and 42. Museum hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, and first Wednesdays of each month until 8:00 pm, with P.M. @ PENN MUSEUM evening programs offered. Closed Mondays and holidays. Museum General Admission is $15 for adults; $13 for senior citizens (65 and above); free for U.S. Military; $10 for children and full-time students with ID; free to Members, PennCard holders, and children 5 and younger. Admission to the special exhibition The Golden Age of King Midas (through November 27, 2016) is an additional $5 per person.

Hot and cold meals and light refreshments are offered to visitors with or without Museum admission in The Pepper Mill Café; the Museum Shop offers a wide selection of gifts, books, games, clothing and jewelry. Penn Museum can be found on the web at For general information call 215.898.4000. For group tour information call 215.746.8183.




About the Penn Museum
The Penn Museum’s mission is to be a center for inquiry and the ongoing exploration of humanity for our University of Pennsylvania, regional, national, and global communities, following ethical standards and practices.

Through conducting research, stewarding collections, creating learning opportunities, sharing stories, and creating experiences that expand access to archaeology and anthropology, the Museum builds empathy and connections across diverse cultures

The Penn Museum is open Tuesday-Sunday, 10:00 am-5:00 pm. It is open until 8:00 pm on first Wednesdays of the month. The Café is open Tuesday-Thursday, 9:00 am-3:00 pm and Friday and Saturday, 10:00 am-3:00 pm. On Sundays, the Café is open 10:30 am-2:30 pm. For information, visit, call 215.898.4000, or follow @PennMuseum on social media.