Cemetery Takes in Sims, a Second Controversial Statue

J. Marion Sims statue in East Harlem, which was removed on April 17. (Photo by Eden, Janine and Jim, Creative Commons license)

On April 17, a day after NYC’s Public Design Commission voted unanimously for the removal of the statue of J. Marion Sims from Central Park in East Harlem, crews transported the monument of the controversial doctor to Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, where he is buried. Sims conducted non-consensual experiments on enslaved Black women without the use of anesthesia.

In a story on the relocation, Brooklyn Daily Eagle notes that Sims founded the country’s first hospital for women, the Woman’s Hospital, and the first cancer institute, New York Cancer Hospital. The article points out that the statue is the “second tarnished artwork that the cemetery has accepted in recent years.”

The artwork will eventually mark the grave of Sims himself, who is buried at Green-Wood, once the cemetery constructs a suitable historical display to put Sims’s life and work “into context.”

“We (accepted the statue) with the intent to make sure that his whole story be told,” said Richard Moylan, president of Green-Wood, adding that the statue would become “a visual focal point that will bring attention to a factual display … to document Sims’s story, including his shameful experimentation on enslaved women in the South between 1845 and 1849.”

The cemetery, Moylan added, has “the responsibility to preserve this history, and not to whitewash it.”

It’s not the first time Green-Wood has offered itself as the final resting place for ignominy — or changing tastes or historical trends.

Go to Brooklyn Daily Eagle to see what statue was also removed from Manhattan, and after 72 years in Queens, was eventually “banished” to Brooklyn.

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