Protesters in New York participated in graphic demonstrations in order to rally for the removal of a controversial monument to a doctor who experimented on enslaved women.
After the events in Charlottesville led to the removal of Confederate statues nationwide, activists took to Central Park to demand the bronze statue of Dr. J. Marion Sims be removed indefinitely.
“Memorializing of imperialist slaveholders, murderers and torturers like J. Marion Sims is white supremacy,” Rossanna Mercedes, member of Black Youth Project 100, told New York Daily News. “We will no longer allow government institutions like the New York City Parks Department to passively allow symbols of oppression.”
Sims, a South Carolina native, is considered by some in the medical world to be the “father of modern gynecology.” He developed a surgery to treat vesicovaginal fistulas, a tear women sometimes suffer after childbirth, and founded the first hospital designed specifically for women in 1855. His statue sits on the outside of Central Park at 103rd Street and 5th Avenue, directly across from the New York Academy of Medicine.
Despite his medical accomplishments, Sims’ reputation was questioned when it became known that he conducted his surgical experiment on three enslaved women whom he kept in a small hospital behind his house. Sims also would perform many of the operations on the women without the use of anesthesia.
One slave named Anarcha, who had vesicovaginal and rectovaginal fistula, underwent 30 operations before Sims was able to close the holes in her bladder and rectum, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Protester Seshat Mack, 24, openly spoke of why the city should remove a monument that faces toward one of New York’s most diverse neighborhoods, East Harlem.
“At best, J. Marion Sims was a racist man who exploited the institution of racism for his own gain,” Mack told the Daily News. “At best, he was a man who recognized the humanity of Black slaves to use them for medical research about the human body — but not enough to recognize and treat their pain during surgery.”
Although the city has refused to remove the monument, cast in 1892 and first displayed in Bryant Park, the Parks Department said in 2011 that a sign would be added to the site to give further context about Sims’ experiments.
However, the protesters would prefer the statue be removed and replaced with the likeness of Anarcha, Betsey and Lucy, the three women who suffered through Sims’ terrible experiments.
(Photo: REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz)