Erin H. Kimmerle
AUTHOR

Erin H. Kimmerle

Erin Kimmerle, Ph.D., is a Forensic Anthropologist and associate professor of Anthropology at the University of South Florida. She is also the Executive Director and founder of the Florida Institute for Forensic Anthropology and Applied Science. She has worked for National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.; the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Dr. Kimmerle has also been involved in projects with National Geographic Explorers, in the search for Amelia Earhart and with the International Committee for the Red Cross, helping create facial reconstructions and test new facial recognition programs for identifying the victims of immigrants shipwrecked off the coast of Italy on their way from Africa. She believes using anthropology and science to help victims of human rights abuses is the perfect blend of science, human rights work, and advocacy. In 2011, she started a research project investigating of the notorious Dozier Boys School—the true story behind the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Nickel Boys. A year later, it evolved into a contentious process to exhume the graves of the boys buried there in order to reunite them with their families. The Arthur G. Dozier Boys School was a well-guarded secret in Florida for over a century, until reports of cruelty, abuse, and “mysterious” deaths shut the institution down in 2011. Established in 1900, the juvenile reform school accepted children as young as six years of age for crimes as harmless as truancy or trespassing. The boys sent there, many of whom were Black, were subject to brutal abuse, hired out to local farmers by the school’s management as indentured labor, and died either at the school or attempting to escape its brutal conditions. In the wake of the school’s shutdown, her team worked to locate the school’s graveyard to determine the number of graves, thus beginning the process of reuniting the boys with their families through forensic and DNA testing. The school’s poorly kept accounting suggested some thirty-one boys were buried in unmarked graves in a remote field on the school’s property. The real number was at least twice that. The book, WE CARRY THEIR BONES: The Search for Justice at the Dozier School for Boys, William Morrow, HC is a detailed account of Jim Crow America and an indictment of the reform school system as we know it. It’s a fascinating dive into the science of forensic anthropology and an important retelling of the extraordinary efforts taken to bring these lost children home to their families—an endeavor that created a political firestorm and a dramatic reckoning with racism and shame in the legacy of America. For her work on this project she received the Hillsborough County Bar Association: Liberty Bell Award, given to an “outstanding non-lawyer citizen whose community service strengthens the effectiveness of the American system under the law.” and more recently, the AAAS Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award in 2020 for “scientists whose exemplary actions have demonstrated scientific freedom and/or responsibility in challenging circumstances.”
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