Reaction - Dr Stephen Kenny on the news that the statue of a racist doctor will be moved

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Bronze statue of a man
Statue of James Marion Sims in front of the Alabama State Capitol. Mccallk69/Shutterstock

Several generations of scholars, activists, and citizens have challenged memorials to the so-called ‘pioneer gynaecologist’ James Marion Sims. Sims was a slave-owning, slave-trading, racist physician, who performed deadly and unethical experimental surgeries on enslaved men, women and infants. Situated in prominent public spaces, the Sims monuments have long haunted African American communities in three major American cities – Columbia, Montgomery and New York.  So, along with many others, I was delighted to see Friday’s news that New York’s Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments and Markers recommended the removal of the Sims statue from Central Park, to the Green-Wood cemetery in Brooklyn where he is buried – just in time for today’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations! Hopefully, this is just the first step in rethinking all of the monuments and memorials to Sims, as part of a bigger challenge to racism in science and medicine, and will signal a resurgence of social protest against all forms of discrimination, abuse and exploitation.

 - Dr Stephen Kenny, lecturer, 19th and 20th century North American History

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