Sims Central Park

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

The 14-foot-tall bronze statue of South Carolina doctor J. Marion Sims will be moved out of Manhattan to his grave in Brooklyn after activists in East Harlem started raising awareness about his controversial legacy.  

New York City officials announced Thursday the Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments and Markers recommended relocating the statue from its current home on Fifth Avenue at the intersection of 103rd Street in East Harlem.

The doctor, who grew up near Rock Hill, S.C., and completed part of his medical training in Charleston, is buried at Green-Wood cemetery in Brooklyn. He died in 1883.

The commission's report explains that many groups, including the New York Academy of Medicine, objected to the statue's existing location. Sims is widely known as the "Father of Gynecology," but he perfected his surgical techniques in the 19th century by experimenting on enslaved women without anesthesia or their consent. 

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

After that rally, the Sims statue on the perimeter of Central Park was defaced with red paint. 

According to the New York City commission's report, "No person or group wrote or testified to request that the Sims monument remain in its current location." 

In a press release, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio explained in most cases, city officials plan to add "detail and nuance" to statues and monuments, instead of removing them entirely. 

A statue of Christopher Columbus, for example, which is located in Manhattan's Columbus Circle on the southwestern corner of Central Park, will remain in place. Historical markers will be added to the site to explain the history of Columbus and officials will commission a new monument, to be located somewhere else, that recognizes "indigenous peoples."

“Reckoning with our collective histories is a complicated undertaking with no easy solution," de Blasio said in the press release. "And we’ll be taking a hard look at who has been left out and seeing where we can add new work to ensure our public spaces reflect the diversity and values of our great city.”

Meanwhile, there are no plans to move or update a monument to Dr. Sims near the S.C. Statehouse in Columbia, even though Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin called it last year "the most offensive" statue on the capitol grounds. 

In Charleston, the City Council deferred action on Tuesday regarding changes to the John C. Calhoun statue in Marion Square. 

Last year, Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg convened a Commission on History to create a more balanced narrative of the city's Confederate-era past. The group recently recommended adding a plaque to the Calhoun monument to add more context about his role as a advocate for slavery. 

It is not clear if, or when, that plaque will be created. 

Reach Lauren Sausser at 843-937-5598.