Campaign for Community


September 2016

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By Category

Science and Race: Understanding the History of Race and Science

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

Race is a modern idea. Ancient societies did not segregate people according to physical differences. Social scientists have argued that race is a social construct without a biological basis that is rooted instead in the long history of racial inequalities. Humans are diverse and can be categorized in many different ways. Yet commonly, people divide us into races based on skin color. Is this a useful way to organize human diversity? Is it ever helpful, or is it always harmful? Does it even have a scientific basis? For centuries, scientists have been struggling to answer these questions. Their findings have ranged from claims of racial superiority to promises of racially tailored medical treatments to the claim that race does not even exist. Join us as we explore the historic roots of these discussions.

This session will be live-streamed. RSVP here.

This event is part of the Public Classroom @ Penn Museum - Science and Race: History, Use, and Abuse

Join over 25 internationally recognized experts from diverse backgrounds for an in-depth and powerful exploration intent on providing discussion tools to aid people in examining their beliefs about race, science, and justice in this free series of five evening classes. Each class includes discussions on race through the lens of anthropology, biology, genetics, sociology, philosophy, and law as well as collection workshops presenting the Samuel Morton human cranial collection, reading materials, and other resources. Sign up for one, several, or all classes. Classes are held Wednesdays 6:30 - 9:00 pm. Advance registration is not required, but recommended. For more information, visit

Science and Race:History, Use, and Abuse is supported by the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. Partners in this program include Penn’s Campaign for Community, the School for Social Policy and Practice, Camra, and WHYY.