Mayor of Columbia says statue of J. Marion Sims should come down

By Caitlin Byrd Aug 16, 2017

The Confederate battle flag came down from the South Carolina Statehouse grounds two years ago, but Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said Tuesday night that another controversial marker in the state capital should be removed.

“There are some statues on our Statehouse grounds that I find wholly offensive,” the mayor told MSNBC host Chris Matthews in a televised interview Tuesday.

“The most offensive statue I find on our capitol wasn’t the (Confederate) soldier,” Benjamin said. “It was J. Marion Sims.”

Born near Rock Hill in 1813, Sims is widely recognized as the “Father of Gynecology.” Among his accomplishments, Sims invented an early version of the speculum. He also set up the first women’s hospital in the country and pioneered a surgical technique that cured women who suffered from lifelong incontinence caused by difficult childbirth.

How Sims made his medical discoveries, though, has made him a controversial figure. Sims carried out his experiments on more than a dozen enslaved women in the 1840s without anesthesia or their consent, The Post and Courier reported in a story published earlier this year.

A bronze bust of Sims can be found on the northwest corner of the S.C. Statehouse grounds.

“There’s a statue of him here,” Benjamin said. “It should come down at some point.”

Statues of Sims can also be found in Alabama and on Fifth Avenue in New York City, where activists have long protested the government to remove the monument.

Earlier on Tuesday, state and municipal leaders nationwide doubled down on efforts to remove Confederate monuments from public grounds after violence erupted last weekend over the removal of Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper in a public post called for the removal of Confederate monuments in the Old North State.

“We cannot continue to glorify a war against the United States of America fought in the defense of slavery. These monuments should come down,” Cooper said. “Our Civil War history is important, but it belongs in textbooks and museums — not a place of allegiance on our Capitol grounds.”

Jim Gray, the mayor of Lexington, Kentucky, has said that he will ask the city council to approve relocating two Confederate-era monuments.

The national debate surrounding the removal of Confederate monuments has been ongoing since 2015, when a self-avowed white supremacist killed nine black parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston. Photos surfaced online shortly after the shooting that showed the killer brandishing the Confederate flag.

South Carolina lawmakers then voted to remove the flag from a monument on the Statehouse grounds.

“We know the history of this great country in which we live,” Benjamin said. “We know that it is an imperfect union — that it was birthed with the original sin of not just slavery, but also the disenfranchisement of women as well.”

Benjamin, a Democrat, also condemned the leadership of President Donald Trump in the wake of Charlottesville.

“It is the moral responsiblity of every leader to try to speak to love, and grace, and mercy, and how you bring people together — not trying to sow seeds of division and hate,” the mayor said. “It’s crystal clear now that he has no desire to bring the people of America together.”

Post and Courier