Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Alexander Olson, Andrew Rosa, Dorothea Browder

Degree Program

Department of History

Degree Type

Master of Arts


On May 13, 1985, Philadelphia police dropped a military grade bomb on 6221 Osage Avenue, a row house in a Black neighborhood in West Philadelphia. This home was occupied by a revolutionary group called MOVE. The bomb started a fire that the police and firefighters decided to “contain” rather than put out, resulting in the deaths of eleven people and the destruction of sixty-one homes. Only two MOVE members survived the fire. Using court records, documents from the investigation conducted by the Philadelphia Special Investigation Commission (PSIC), and other interviews regarding MOVE and the bombing, this paper reconstructs different perspectives on these events to expose how the MOVE bombing was the result of longstanding tensions that were exacerbated by both race and class prejudices.

The existing works on MOVE do not seriously consider the multiple perspectives involved in the bombing and consequently privilege individual pieces of the story over the whole. This privileging typically simplifies the story to MOVE versus the police. In these histories MOVE is either deified or vilified, the police are regarded as guilty but not culpable, major city officials are broadly excused as incompetent, and the neighbors are entirely forgotten. In opposition to this framework, this analysis highlights the complexity of this confrontation, the people involved, and the terms we use to define them


African American Studies | American Politics | Arts and Humanities | Criminology | History | Political History | Political Science | Public Administration | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Race and Ethnicity | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Terrorism Studies | United States History