Please join East Harlem Preservation in asking the New York City Parks Department to remove the statue of Dr. J. Marion Sims from its current location on Fifth Avenue and 103rd Street.
Since 2010, East Harlem Preservation has sponsored numerous public protests, forums, and petition drives calling for the removal of the statue honoring J. Marion Sims—a white southern doctor who experimented on enslaved Black women without anesthesia or informed consent.
Our campaign was greatly inspired by earlier efforts by activist Viola Plummer—who had begun calling attention to Sims’ cruel experiments soon after the publication of Harriet A. Washington’s book “Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present” in 2006.
East Harlem Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito joined the campaign in February 2011 and wrote a letter asking the Parks Department to remove the statue, which she described as “a constant reminder of the cruelty endured by women of color in our country’s history.”
The NYC Parks Department refused to honor our request, claiming that “the city does not remove ‘art’ for content”—a ridiculous argument given the fact that such a precedent was met when the Sims statue was removed from Bryant Park in 1934 to make way for “thematic changes.”
In early 2016, the Park Department offered to install a plaque beneath the Sims statue that would “honor” three of the women who were subjected to his unnecessarily barbaric experiments—Anarcha, Betsy and Lucy.
In June 2016, Community Board 11 rejected the plaque and called for the removal of the statue, a decision which we wholeheartedly supported.
In September 2016, East Harlem Preservation joined with artists from the Laundromat Project to organize a speak-out in solidarity with the reproductive rights of women of color. The event was held in front of the Sims statue, where speakers and artists honored their ancestors and condemned the continued assault on Black and Latina female bodies.
In February 2017, we held a panel discussion on the Sims statue with Medical Apartheid author Harriet Washington; Dr. Lynn Roberts, reproductive justice scholar activist and Assistant Professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy; and Diane Collier, Chair of East Harlem’s Community Board 11. The program was broadcast over Manhattan Neighborhood Network.
The debate surrounding the removal of symbols of oppression and hate is certainly not new, although the issue did gain national attention when activist Bree Newsome removed the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina Statehouse in response to the murder of nine black parishioners in Charleston by self-avowed white supremacist Dylann Roof on June 17, 2015.
Community activists and legislators across the country stepped up their efforts even further after August 12, 2017 when a white neo-Nazi protesting the removal of a monument to Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia drove his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring others.
While addressing the tragedy, Columbia, South Carolina Mayor Steve Benjamin also singled out J. Marion Sims, including the statue here in New York City. “I believe there are some statues on our state capitol I find wholly offensive,” he said “The most offensive statue wasn’t a soldier, it’s J. Marion Sims, who’s considered the father of modern gynecology who tortured slave women and children for years as he developed his treatments for gynecology. It should come down at some point.”
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio responded to the growing controversy—which now included protests against monuments to Christopher Columbus—by announcing the formation of an Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments and Markers. Unfortunately, members have thus far held no public meetings and will make no formal decision until after the general election next month.
On August 17, 2017, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito wrote a letter to Mayor de Blasio asking that the statue of Dr. J. Marion Sims be included in the 90-day review that the City is conducting of all symbols of hate on city property.
On August 19, 2017, we attended a very moving action in front of the Sims statue organized by members of Black Youth Project 100 challenging the presence of these symbols of oppression.
On August 21, 2017 East Harlem Council woman Melissa Mark Viverito was joined by other elected officials to reaffirm her call for the removal of the statue.
On August 25, 2017, unknown person(s) took matters into their own hands—spray-painting the word “racist” on the back of the statue and splattering red paint on the eyes, presumably to symbolize the torture Sims inflicted on his victims.
On September 27, 2017, Dimiti Kadiev, a traveling artist affiliated with the Catholic Worker movement, painted a portrait of abolitionist Harriet Tubman in front of the Sims statue and urged Mayor de Blasio to replace it with a monument honoring African American women.
Most recently, East Harlem Preservation joined forces with Council members Inez Barron, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and other legislators, to form the “Coalition to Remove the Dr. Sims Statue: Reclaiming Reproductive Rights of Women of Color”.
East Harlem Preservation maintains that the statue’s presence does a huge disservice to the neighborhood’s majority Black and Latino residents – groups that have historically been subjected to medical experiments without permission or regard for their wellbeing. There are many African American and Puerto Rican women and men who have made great medical and scientific contributions that have benefitted our community—Dra. Helen Rodriguez-Trias and Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, to name a few.
We hope that you will join over 20,000 people who have endorsed the campaign to remove the Sims statue. Now, more than ever, as the nation undergoes the erosion of our fundamental rights, it is imperative that New York City stand firm in its commitment to honor and defend its residents with this simple gesture.
What You Can Do
If you agree, kindly email us a letter of support in Word or PDF format.
- Coalition To Remove Central Park Statue Of Doctor Who Experimented On Slaves Grows – Harlem Patch, October 20, 2017
- J. Marion Sims: Monumental Error – Harpers Magazine, October 19, 2017
- Coalition to remove the Sims statue press release – October 18, 2017
- Coalition to remove the Sims Fact Sheet – October 18, 2017
- Panel Will Devise Guidelines for Addressing Monuments Deemed Offensive – New York Times, September 8, 2017
- MAP: New York City’s controversial statues and monuments – New York Daily News, September 8, 2017
- Nature Magazine’s Disastrous ‘Whitewashing’ Editorial – The Atlantic, September 6, 2017
- A look at some of NYC’s most controversial monuments as city weighs whether to remove iconic statues – New York Daily News, September 2, 2017
- East Harlem residents say, ‘Remove the racist Sims’ statue!’ – Workers World, August 31, 2017
- New Target for Statue Removal: ‘Father of Gynecology’ Who Operated on Enslaved Black Women – Colorlines, August 30, 2017
- A surgeon experimented on slave women without anesthesia. Now his statues are under attack. – Washington Post, August 29, 2017
- ‘Racist’ Painted on Statue of Doctor Who Experimented on Slaves, NYPD Says – DNAinfo, August 28, 2017
- Not a Confederate general, but this man’s statue has got to go – Daily Kos, August 27, 2017
- Statue Of Doctor Who Experimented On Slaves Is Defaced, Spray-Painted With ‘Racist’ – Gothamist, August 27, 2017
- Statue of doctor who experimented on enslaved women is defaced – NY 1, August 27, 2017
- Central Park Statue of Doctor Who Experimented on Slaves Defaced – NBC, August 27, 2017
- Statue Of Controversial Dr. J. Marion Sims Vandalized With Spray-Paint – CBS, August 27, 2017
- Vandal spray-paints ‘racist’ on Central Park statue of doctor who experimented on slaves – New York Daily News, August 26, 2017
- Central Park Statue of Doctor Who Experimented on Slaves Defaced – NBC, August 26, 2017
- More Than a Statue: Rethinking J. Marion Sims’ Legacy – Rewire, August 24, 2017
- Places Should Be Renamed, Statues Taken Down, North As Well As The South – Huffington Post, August 24, 2017
- Statues, Symbolism: Anarcha – Huffington Post, August 23, 2017
- Pressure Builds to Take Down a Particularly Gruesome NYC Monument to Doctor Who Experimented on Female Slaves – Art News, August 23, 2017
- Black Women Want The Statue Of This Famed Gynecologist To Come Down For Good Reason – Essence, August 22, 2017
- Dr. J. Marion Sims Experimented On Black Women & His New York Statue Has People Outraged – Death Rattle Sports, August 22, 2017
- Why the Statue of J. Marion Sims in New York City Should Go – Medium, August 22, 2017
- Museum of the City of New York Calls for Removal of East Harlem Statue of Doctor Who Experimented on Enslaved Women – Art News, August 22, 2017
- Why Black Women Are Protesting A Statue Of This Famed Gynecologist – Huffington Post, August 21, 2017
- Protesters Target Central Park Statue Of Gynecologist Who Experimented On Slaves – Gothamist, August 21, 2017
- East Harlem statue of unethical M.D. should be the next ‘hero’ to fall, says community board – 6sqft, August 21, 2017
- Activists Demand Removal of Monument to Doctor Who Experimented on Slaves – DNAinfo, August 21, 2017
- Calls for removal of statue of 19th century doctor in East Harlem – ABC, August 21, 2017
- In Wake of Charlottesville, Statue of. J. Marion Sims in Central Park Reignites Controversy – NBC, August 21, 2017
- Protesters demand removal of Central Park statue of 19th century doctor who experimented on slave women – New York Daily News, August 20, 2017
- Black Youth Project 100 Says: “FUCK White Supremacy!” Demands Removal of J. Marion Sims Statue! – EHP, August 19, 2017
- An Antebellum Hero, but to Whom? – New York Times, August 18, 2017
- Letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio – Speaker Mark-Viverito, August 17, 2017
- De Blasio: NYC To Review ‘Symbols Of Hate’ On City Property – CBS, August 17, 2017
- Momentum builds to remove statues of a controversial doctor in Columbia, NYC in wake of Charlottesville – Post and Courier, August 16, 2017
- Mayor of Columbia says statue of J. Marion Sims should come down – Post and Courier, August 16, 2017
- Columbia Mayor Asks South Carolina To Remove Sculpture of the ‘Father of Gynecology’ – Jezebel, August 16, 2017
- Steve Benjamin says J. Marion Sims monument at S.C. State House ‘should come down at some point’ – The State, August 16, 2017
- J. Marion Sims: ‘Savior of women’ or medical monster? Charleston Post and Courier, April 7, 2017
- “Speak Out in Solidarity For the Reproductive Rights of Women of Color” to Air on MNN 12/21, 12/24, and 12/27 – EHP, December 20, 2016
- East Harlem Activists Still Pushing To Remove Controversial Statue – The Uptowner, October 10, 2016
- NOT OUR STATUE: Speak Out in Solidarity For the Reproductive Rights of Women of Color (Video) – EHP, September 25, 2016
- Community Renews Push to Remove Statue of Man Who Experimented on Slaves – DNAinfo, September 24, 2016
- Remembering Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey: The Mothers of Modern Gynecology – NPR, February 21, 2016
- Dr. J. Marion Sims Medical Experiments on Enslaved Women and Children – Ramp Your Voice, August 2015
- Polémica en East Harlem por estatua de ginecólogo – El Diario-La Prensa, 7 de mayo de 2014
- Council Speaker Urged to Remove Statue of Doctor Who Experimented on Slaves – DNAinfo, May 7, 2014
- Sculpture of Paradox: Doctor as Hero and Villain – New York Times, March 2, 2014
- Time to ‘Remember the Ladies’ — in Central Park – Huffington Post, March 18, 2013
- Doctor James Marion Frankenstein Sims – Too Much Black, March 4, 2013
- Councilwoman Wants to Remove Statue of Doctor Who Operated on Slaves – DNAinfo, February 15, 2013
- Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito: NYC Statue An Ugly Reminder Of Slavery – New York Daily News, February 15, 2013
- Medical Apartheid Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present – Democracy Now, February 13, 2013
- Like Former Mayors, a Statue Fades From View – The New York Times, September 5, 2011
- American Mengele – Huffington Post, September 16, 2011
- The Portrayal of J. Marion Sims’ Controversial Surgical Legacy – Jurology, June 2011
- Melissa Writes to Parks Department Regarding Offensive Statue Outside Central Park- February 14, 2011
- Harlem Doesn’t Like Statue Of Slave-Operating Vagina Doc – Gothamist, February 13, 2011
- Slave doc knocked off pedestal – New York Post, February 13, 2011
- World Famous Gynecologist Once Operated on Slaves – Black Scholars for Black America – December 10, 2010
- Slaves, Experiments & Dr. Marion Sims’s Statue: Should It Stay or Go? – New American Media, December 8, 2010
- Unequal treatment – New York Times, February 18, 2007
- The medical ethics of Dr J Marion Sims – Journal of Medical Ethics – June 2006
- Scholars Argue Over Legacy of Surgeon Who Was Lionized, Then Vilified – The New York Times, October 28, 2003
- Killing the Black Body, Dorothy Roberts, 1997
Letters of Support
- Letter to Mayor de Blasio – Dr. Camille A. Clare, Manhattan Central Medical Society, October 13, 2017
- Letter to Mayor de Blasio – Richard Berlin, Dream Charter School, October 10, 2017
- Gregory Razzano, August 27, 2017
- Greta Casanave, August 26, 2017
- J. Lorraine Frieson, August 25, 2017
- Ellen Landsberger, MD, MS, August 23, 2017
- Spencer Merolla, August 20, 2017
- Elsbet Servay, FNP-BC, August 19, 2017
- Savini Ganhewa, August 19, 2017
- Joe Rogers, Jr. – Total Equity Now, August 19, 2017
- Susan-Rubin, MD, MPH, August 17, 2017
- K.J. Martin, August 15, 2017
- National Advocates for Pregnant Women, August 11, 2017
- East Harlem Council for Human Services, April 26, 2017
- East Harlem Community Health Committee, April 18, 2017
- East Harlem Community Health Committee, April 18, 2017
- Mount Sinai Students, March 27, 2017
- Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Signatories, March 27, 2017
- Barbara Brenner, DrPH, MSW, March 24, 2017
- Patricia Fry (Retired Political Director, Committee of Interns and Residents/SEIU), March 21, 2017
- Dr. Andrés Torres (Lehman College Dept. of Latin American, Latino and Puerto Rican Studies), March 17, 2017
- Iris Morales (Author/Filmmaker), March 15, 2017
- Raymond Ramirez (Founder of The Lyric Lab), March 15, 2017
- Letter to the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation – Community Board 11, September 14, 2016
- Letter to the NYC Public Design Commission – Community Board 11, September 14, 2016
- Letter to Commissioner Adrian Benepe – Councilwoman Mark-Viverito, February 11, 2011
- EHP Survey Results
- Medical Apartheid (Harriet Washington, 2007)
- Statue of Dr. J. Marion Sims – NYC Parks Department
- James Marion Sims – Wikipedia
- Unethical human experimentation in the United States – Wikipedia
- J. Marion Sims Letters
- The Story of My Life – James Marion Sims, 1898
- Reply to Dr. J. Marion Sims’ Pamphlet, “The Woman’s Hospital in 1874” – Edmund Randolph Peaslee, 1877
- Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler (bio)
- Dr. Helen Rodriguez-Trias (bio)