You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.
top story

Statue of J. Marion Sims, notorious South Carolina doctor, moved out of Manhattan

  • Updated
Sims Central Park (copy)

A statue of Dr. J. Marion Sims was moved out of Manhattan to the doctor's grave in Brooklyn this week. Sims is a controversial historical figure for the medical experiments he performed on enslaved women. File/Lauren Sausser/Staff

The statue of a physician who trained in Charleston and performed medical experiments on enslaved women in the antebellum South was moved out of Manhattan on Tuesday. 

Earlier this year, New York City's Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments and Markers recommended relocating the statue of J. Marion Sims from its current home on Fifth Avenue at the intersection of 103rd Street in East Harlem to the doctor's grave in Brooklyn. 

Sims was born near Rock Hill in 1813. He attended college in Columbia and completed part of his medical school training in Charleston. 

He became widely known as the "Father of Gynecology" after pioneering a surgical technique to cure the "vesico-vaginal fistula," a debilitating condition that women often suffered in that era after complications in childbirth. Sims perfected the surgery by performing repeated operations on enslaved women in Alabama during the 1840s. He did not use anesthesia. 

The Post and Courier published an investigation about the doctor's controversial legacy last year, four months before a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., sparked a national debate about Confederate-era statues and monuments.

At the time, a spokesman for the New York City Parks Department told The Post and Courier the agency "is not in the business of taking down monuments."

The best of health, hospital and science coverage in South Carolina, delivered to your inbox weekly.

The New York Daily News reported Tuesday morning that city officials wrapped the Sims statue in a blue blanket and carried it off on a flatbed truck. One onlooker shouted, "Off with his head!" Two dozen people reportedly cheered. 

Diane Collier, a member of the Community Board in East Harlem who has long argued for the statue to come down, told The Post and Courier its removal on Tuesday was mostly attended by members of press. 

"There were community members in attendance who clapped and chanted when he was taken down," Collier said. "I was just reflective."

Meanwhile, leaders in South Carolina have no intention to move or update a monument to Dr. Sims near the S.C. Statehouse in Columbia. Similarly, buildings in Columbia used by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control and the University of South Carolina also bear Sims' name. 

The state's Heritage Act requires legislative approval to change monuments, buildings or roads on public property.

Reach Lauren Sausser at 843-937-5598. 

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


Breaking News

Columbia Breaking News

Greenville Breaking News

Myrtle Beach Breaking News