New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) ordered the removal of a statue of Dr. J. Marion Sims, a doctor who experimented on enslaved black women, from Central Park. The statue will be preserved and moved to Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, where Sims was buried.
While he agreed to remove the statue of Sims, de Blasio decided to leave a plaque honoring Henri Philippe Pétain — a World War I hero who collaborated with the Nazis during World War II. De Blasio tweeted in August that he would remove the statue, then backtracked later when he was asked about it.
Who was Dr. J. Marion Sims?
Although he is regarded as the “father of modern gynecology,” Sims did so by experimenting on enslaved black women in the 1840s without the use of anesthesia. He ran his brutal experiments on several women, but only three of them had names that survived: Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey. In his own notes, Sims recounted Lucy crying and saying that she thought she was going to die.
The statue of Sims was installed in Central Park in 1934. A plaque on the statue praised him for his “brilliant achievement.”
A temporary sign has been placed on the now-empty pedestal that states: “By order of Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYC Parks has relocated the statue of Dr. James Marion Sims to Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, where Sims is buried. Plans are being developed to commission a new monument on this site.”
Who was Henri Philippe Pétain?
Pétain, a French general, was applauded as a hero for his victories during World War I. However, when France was overrun by the German forces in World War II, he agreed to lead a client state on behalf of the Germans based out of Vichy in southern France.
After the war, he was put on trial in France and condemned to death. However, Gen. Charles de Gaulle commuted his sentence, and he was sentenced to life in prison instead.
Pétain was honored with the plaque in New York City's Canyon of Heroes in 1931, nearly a decade before he began collaborating with the Nazis.
De Blasio had promised last year to remove Petain’s statue in a tweet.
“The commemoration for Nazi collaborator Philippe Pétain in the Canyon of Heroes will be one of the first we remove,” de Blasio’s official @NYCMayor account tweeted, quote tweeting a tweet from the same account about conducting a “90-day review of all symbols of hate on city property.”
The commemoration for Nazi collaborator Philippe Pétain in the Canyon of Heroes will be one of the first we remove. https://t.co/hAnGmkCdtg
— Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) August 16, 2017
However, when the New York Daily News asked him about the tweet, de Blasio insisted, “I did not say that. The tweet said that. And that was wrong.”
New York City's Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments, and Markers has argued that the plaques honoring Pétain and fellow Nazi collaborator Pierre Laaval need to remain where they are, or the entire Canyon of Heroes memorial will have to be scrapped.