Officials uprooted the monument because of the turbulent history that surrounds Sims’ medical work. While he did establish the first women’s hospital in New York City in 1855, he performed a slew of surgical procedures on enslaved black women without anesthesia. He used these women as his “guinea pigs.” Because of the dehumanizing and racist experiments, activist groups from the East Harlem community have been fighting for the statue’s removal.
Reportedly, provocative protests took place last summer where the statue was defaced, and smeared with stains of red paint; the word “racist” was also emblazoned on the structure. Most of the protesters were black women sporting loose clothing smeared with red—representing the blood of the enslaved black women Sims experimented on.
Moreover, a special commission on monuments started by Mayor Bill de Blasio recently voted that the statue be replaced by an informational plaque citing all the damage Sims did to black women during his practice.
The fight to remove Sims’ statue has been active since 2010, mainly led by the East Harlem Preservation organization. Another statue in Columbia, South Carolina of Sims has sparked major outrage, albeit being Sims’ hometown. The city’s first African-American mayor, Steve Benjamin, finds the statue offensive. Sims has been a topic of major discussion among the black community lately, especially with it being Black History Month. Here are some opinions via Twitter:
Black History: James Marion Sims became the “father of modern gynecology” by conducting research on enslaved black women and children without anesthesia because black people, being both subhuman and superhuman, could not feel painhttps://t.co/vs7TFRxLou
— TheWalkerCollective (@AFirm4Creatives) February 2, 2018
Since its #BlackHistoryMonth, let’s have a moment of silence for all the enslaved and poor black women who were forced into experiments and tortured by James Marion Sims, the “Father of Gynecology” – cervical exams feel like torture because they literally WERE TORTURE
— Miles Joyner (@milebimile) February 5, 2018
I’ll give a specific example of James Marion Sims. This man experimented on black women without anesthetics. He believed they were not “real women” and would cut them up respectively claiming they couldn’t feel pain, no matter how much they screamed.
— what were you doin @ 21? (@melaninstic) February 5, 2018
Sims’ statue is now reportedly being moved to Green Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, where he’s buried.