NEW YORK (AP) — Critics want New York City to remove a statue in Central Park that honors a doctor who used slaves in developing a pioneering approach to treating physical problems women can develop after childbirth.
The call to remove the statue of Dr. J. Marion Sims has gotten louder and gained urgency in the wake of violence that followed recent a white nationalist rally in Virginia over the removal of a Confederate statue and sparked national discussions about what should be displayed and honored in the public square.
Sims was a 19th-century physician who is credited with developing a surgical technique to repair certain types of fistulas, or tears, which prior to that had been a seemingly insurmountable condition. He developed the technique through operations on enslaved black women in Alabama, without anesthetic.
Among those calling for the statue to be removed from its upper Manhattan location is City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who at a press conference Monday said, "We must send a definitive message that the despicable acts of J. Marion Sims are repugnant and reprehensible."
The white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was over the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue. A counterdemonstrator was killed when a car drove into a crowd protesting the rally.
Following that violence, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said a task force would be put together to review "symbols of hate" on city property with an eye toward determining whether removals are necessary.
Mark-Viverito also suggested that a statue of Christopher Columbus in Manhattan's Columbus Circle be evaluated by that task force, based on his treatment of indigenous peoples.