126 years ago, the city of New York constructed a statue in Central Park dedicated to J. Marion Sims, a noted gynecologist.
On Tuesday, after an almost year-long battle, his statue was finally taken down.
The statue was removed as part of an initiative spearheaded in August by several activist groups, including Black Youth Project 100. On Monday The Public Design Commission unanimously voted to remove the statue and relocate it to Sims gravesite in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery. As of now, a specific date has yet to be set for the statue’s relocation–many advocates argue against its removal altogether.
Last August Mayor Bill de Blasio organized a commission which examined controversial statues around the city shortly after the Charlottesville violence sparked by a confederate monument of Robert E. Lee.
Sims born and raised in South Carolina in 1813, was once hailed as the “father of modern gynecology.” He was also known to use Black female slaves and black enslaved children in his experiments without administering anesthesia. Sims is credited with creating the vaginal speculum still used in today’s examination rooms, and with creating a surgical process for women which prevented tearing between the uterus and bladder during childbirth.
Sims performed these surgeries without pain relief–sparking debate that he ascribed to the centuries old stereotype that Black people are less prone to pain.
According to History.com, three women slaves were brought to near death experiences because of Sims’ practices: Lucy, Anarcha, and Betsey.
In the 1850’s he relocated to New York and opened the first women’s hospital–a place where he continued his experiments on Black women and children.
As we know all too well, history at times conveniently props up particular narratives. Some activists are calling for a complete removal of the statue in an effort to hold city officials accountable and disseminate the truth behind Sims’ legacy.
Tuesday’s removal is just the first step in the continuous fight.