A statue of Doctor J. Marion Sims, credited by many as the father of modern gynecology, is being considered for removal under the city’s push to oust symbols of hate on city property. East Harlem residents and city officials have long advocated for the statue’s removal, asserting that it honors Sims’s medical achievements while overlooking that between the years 1845 and 1849, he performed gynecological exams on 12 enslaved women without anesthesia, NBC New York and DNAinfo report.
East Harlem City Council member Bill Perkins has taken a strong stance against the statue, and is calling for its removal.
“The community has seen statues along the way for years, but once the community began to study these statues and understand what they mean, they found out that they come from a mentality and an era that are quite inconsistent with today and the future,” Perkins said at a Monday rally calling for the statue’s removal. “And while one might say it's just standing there, it represents us, and I don't believe that the community in general finds this something to brag about.”
The statue stands in Central Park, near Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street near the Museum of the City of New York. On Saturday, protestors from Brooklyn Youth Project 100 dressed in “bloodied” hospital gowns gathered at the site to condemn the monument to Sims.
“Anarcha, Lucy and Betsy—these women had names,” City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said at Monday’s rally. “He repeatedly performed surgery on black women without anesthesia because, according to him, black women don't feel pain.”
Mayor de Blasio has confirmed that the statue of Sims will be one of the monuments surveyed as the city conducts a 90-day review of “symbols of hate” that are situated on city property. When pressed about the Sims statue, de Blasio said he was “not going to comment on every statue, but this is certainly a troubling example.”
The renewed call for the statue’s removal comes after the marches, protests, and attacks at a “Unite the Right” rally led by white nationalist groups in Charlottesville, Virginia. To date in New York, a plaque commemorating Confederate general Robert E. Lee was removed from a tree in Brooklyn, busts of Lee and Confederate general Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson were removed from Bronx Community College’s Hall of Fame For Great Americans, and the MTA has vowed to remove tile resembling the Confederate flag in a subway station near Times Square.
Update: The Museum of the City of New York has voiced its support for the statue’s removal in a statement:
The Museum of the City of New York praises Mayor de Blasio for initiating a 90-day review of ‘symbols of hate on New York City property’ and we join the East Harlem community in asking that the statue of Dr. J. Marion Sims be included in this review. We are in agreement with City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito, our local elected officials, Community Board 11, and other members of our community that there is a compelling argument to be made for the statue's removal as a symbol of unethical racist medical practice. The Museum of the City of New York supports the removal of the statue on this basis.
- In Wake of Charlottesville, Statue of. J. Marion Sims in Central Park Reignites Controversy [NBC New York]
- Activists Demand Removal of Monument to Doctor Who Experimented on Slaves [DNAinfo]
- De Blasio says NYC will review ‘symbols of hate’ on city property [Curbed]
- Confederate general busts at Bronx Community College will be removed (updated) [Curbed]
- New York pols push to remove Confederate street names in Brooklyn (updated) [Curbed]