J. Marion Sims “the Father of Gynecology” experimented on enslaved black women. pic.twitter.com/ZBHiJMnfMO— AFRICAN HISTORY (@africanarchives) April 7, 2018
New York City’s Public Design Commission has agreed to remove a controversial statue of J. Marion Sims, a 19th century surgeon who gained the title of “father of modern gynecology” at the painful expense of hundreds of slave women.
Sims is credited with a number of medical advancements, most notably the surgical repair of vesicovaginal fistulas that causes a continuous leakage of urine into the vaginal vault. However, his surgical techniques were only made possible at the expense of black women. Historians noted Sims used enslaved women as experimental subjects in his excruciating surgeries. Most of these women’s names have been lost in history except for three: Anarcha, Lucy and Betsey.
The women would be stripped naked and restrained, sometimes by other slave women, as Sims determinedly cut open their genitals and sutured them back together, without the use of anesthesia and without the women’s consent. The barbaric operation the women suffered was catastrophic for their health and quality of life.
The work has been regarded as historians as unethical.
Sims’ statue was erected outside Manhattan’s Bryant Park in 1894 and moved to a four-and-a-half foot pedestal across from New York Academy of Medicine in 1934. However, it was recently flagged by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio as one of the “symbols of hate on city property.”
The city has now voted to remove the statue, but there is a catch: The racist’s statue will not be destroyed, only relocated to Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, where Sims is buried. At Green-Wood, the statue will be erected on a much smaller pedestal and will have a plaque that will give “context as to who he was and the history of the sculpture itself.”
However, some activists believe the statue should not to be allowed to exist at all. Putting informational plaques next to the statue is “insulting and belittling” to the women who were tortured by Sims’ medical experiments, said Amrit Trewn of the activist group Black Youth Project 100.
“The relocation of the Sims monument to Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn by the City of New York denotes that this physical representation of anti-black violence will still stand and maintain its presence in the heart of yet another community of color,” said Trewn.
However, the city justified it wanted to remember history’s dark side but not glorify it, so the statue will not be destroyed.
Some people believe putting Sims where he belongs is an important step toward honoring the black slave women who suffered for his experiments.
However, it certainly isn’t enough. Evil people like Sims should be vilified and consigned to the pages of history — not have their statues erected anywhere.
There have been attempts to have the statue removed for a decade, however, it drew attention last year when violent mobs descended in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the removal of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s statue.
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