NYC Council to Relocate Statute of Scientist Who Conducted Horrific Experiments on Enslaved Black Women

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J. Marion Sims Statue
The mayor’s Public Design Commission voted to move the J. Marion Sims statue to the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. (Photo by Howard Simmons/New York Daily News)

A New York City board has approved a plan to remove the Central Park statue honoring a scientist notorious for experimenting on enslaved Black women.

The statue of J. Marion Sims, who was once hailed as the father of modern gynecology, will be moved to Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery on Tuesday, April 17, after the Public Design Commission unanimously voted to relocate it, the New York Daily News reported. Sims has more recently been reviled for his experiments — many of which he conducted on enslaved Black women without the use of anesthesia.

The move was first proposed by Mayor de Blasio’s monuments commission, which reviewed several controversial monuments across the city.

“These procedures were part of a shameful legacy of experimentation by white doctors on Black bodies,” Tom Finkelpearl, the city’s cultural affairs commissioner and the head of the monuments panel, told the newspaper. “I fully support this proposal to relocate the statue from this honored, high-profile position in Central Park.”

After its removal, the Sims statue will be placed on a low base near Sims’ grave at the Green-Wood Cemetery. It’s unclear exactly when the monument will be installed.

Chanel Porchia-Albert, founder of Ancient Song Doula Services, spoke at a public hearing ahead of the commission’s vote and called the statue’s relocation the first step in “having some reconciliation.”

“Women of African descent, black and brown women have consistently had our reproductive freedoms and rights oppressed,” she said.

Other folks were split over the commission’s decision, however. Some people felt Sims’ statue didn’t belong in Brooklyn either while others argued the monument should be left alone.

“History matters. Don’t run from it,” said Stony Brook University professor Michele Bogart. “The Sims monument is part of New York City’s history. The significance of the monument does not derive merely from our present day feelings and our assessments of whether the subject of the work was a good or bad person. The meaning of public sculptures goes far beyond that.”

City Councilwoman Inez Barron disagreed, saying the statue should be taken down — and remain down.

“We’re not talking about changing history,” Barron (D-Brooklyn) said. “We’re saying it is a horror, and it should not be honored or elevated.”

“Green-Wood Cemetery has said they’re willing to take it. Fine. Complete the job and bury it,” she added.

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