Famed gynecologist J. Marion Sims, who drew prominence in the 1800s, has been honored outside of the New York Academy of Medicine for his innovation in the profession. However, throughout his career, he would often conduct experiments on black female slaves who he tested surgeries on without anesthesia because he reportedly claimed that “black women don’t feel pain.”
In August, 100 protestors in the Black Youth Project (BYP100) staged a protest that called for the permanent removal of his statue in New York. Four black female members of BYP100 stood in front of Sims’ statue wearing medical gowns with pink stains simulating blood on the front.
On Monda, the city Public Design Commission voted to remove the statue of Dr. Sims, according to ABC 7.
J. Marion Sims was a gynecologist in the 1800s who purchased Black women slaves and used them as guinea pigs for his untested surgical experiments. He repeatedly performed genital surgery on Black women without anesthesia because according to him, "Black women don't feel pain." pic.twitter.com/3u2DLZFzdD— Jemisha (@JemiSHaaaZzz) January 27, 2018
“Black women continue to suffer worse health outcomes than white women," BYP100 protest organizer Seshat Mack told the HuffPost. "In the United States, black women are still two-to-six times more likely to die during childbirth than white women. The institution of reproductive health was built on the exploitation of black women, but this very institution continues to underserve black women.”
According to New York Daily News, the statue will be relocated to Sims’ gravesite at the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. A plaque bearing Sims’ information will stand in the statue’s place, along with information regarding the controversial nature of the statue’s placement.
“Memorializing white supremacy is an American problem, not just a southern one,” Mack told HuffPost. “And it’s a problem that we need to reckon with as a country.”
When rallies started in summer 2013, protestors began by vandalizing the statue with red paint and writing “racist” across its body. Though the statue is now down, it was only one of two statues commemorating Sims’ memory. The other remains standing in Sims’ hometown of Columbia, South Carolina.
Modern medicine continues to use Sims’ practices, including the speculum which aids in the dilation of the vaginal canal. He also established the first women’s hospital in New York City. These accomplishments, however, were built from the discoveries he gathered from the pain of the black women in his experiments.
“This is a really cute first step,” Mack said. “But the next step (and the harder step) is ensuring that removal of these racist, white supremacist statues isn’t simply symbolic.”
Update: We recently stated that the statue was removed. It was announced that the statue is only being relocated and BYP100 is continuing their work to get it permanently removed.