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You’ve got hate mail: Cemetery honcho bombarded with letters blasting his request for gyno’s statue

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This statue’s controversy is far from dead.

Dozens of irate locals fired off letters to the head honcho of Brooklyn’s biggest necropolis after this newspaper reported he wanted the graveyard to be the final resting place for a polarizing effigy of a gynecologist who experimented on black slaves.

“Why would you want to display a monument of torture and racism in our neighborho­od?” Park Sloper Joanna Arnow asked Green-Wood Cemetery’s Richard Moylan via e-mail. “Are you a proponent of racism? Or torture? Or you just really like forced medical experiments? I’m so confused.”

Residents’ grass-roots protest began following the news that Moylan asked the city to move the likeness of J. Marion Sims to the idyllic burial ground after Hizzoner’s commission on statues recommended banishing it from its home in Manhattan’s Central Park, according to a letter writer.

“A couple of folks who live in South Slope came across [the Brooklyn Paper] article … and got really upset that the solution was to remove the racist statue from one location to another,” said Kate Axelrod, who lives in Park Slope.

But what started as a small group of apoplectic penmen and women quickly ballooned into a full-fledged campaign after the original protestors spread the word to friends and associates, many of whom wrote copycat missives blasting Moylan for glorifying the 19th-century gyno.

“As black women have been saying for years: Sims tortured black women when he performed medical experiments on them without anesthesia or consent,” wrote Michael Madormo. “Why would we celebrate this person?”

The privately owned cemetery’s chief responded to the flood of criticism with his own letter that described Green-Wood’s more than 570,000 eternal residents — Sims included — as a hodgepodge of saints, sinners, and everything in between, and stated his belief in preserving both art and history.

“Green-Wood is truly a microcosm of our nation’s history — the good and bad, the beautiful and the ugly,” he wrote. “The responsibility to preserve this history, and not to whitewash it, is something we take very seriously.”

Moylan’s letter went on to explain his plans for the statue, which, along with a new informational display describing the doctor’s legacy, he hopes to use as a tool to educate visitors about Sims and the role he forced black women to play in his sordid medical career.

“Placing the sculpture at the gravesite is not meant to glorify him,” his letter read. “Rather, it is a visual focal point that will bring attention to a factual display that Green-Wood will build.”

The response succeeded in mollifying some protesters, who were relieved to learn that information would accompany the monument.

“I personally appreciated the plan to put it in context,” said Sunset Parker Molly McIntyre. “I would just be curious to know more about exactly what that looks like.”

But others argued that no amount of background detail would justify the controversial likeness’s placement on the hallowed ground.

“Statues serve as markers of honor and remembrance; this one honors Sims, no matter how many plaques you place around it,” Prospect Heights resident Tom Weinreich said in his letter opposing the monument’s move.

And Axelrod doesn’t endorse the outright destruction of the statue, but said it should not be accessible to the public in any way, vowing to increase the pressure on Moylan unless the cemetery changes its tune.

“I don’t want to see it publicly displayed anywhere,” she said. “I don’t want this man to be honored in any way.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 5:49 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Rufus Leaking from BH says:
For years and years that statue stood uptown, and no one bothered with it, much less knew who he was.

Now we are outraged! Just look at us! We are outraged!!!

And still we have named the HQ of the Board of Ed after the biggest crook the city has ever had.
Jan. 26, 12:58 pm
fffff from brooklyn says:
a good compromise would be to leave it lying face down in the dirt
Jan. 26, 1:20 pm
Reasonable from Brooklyn says:
I side with Mr.Moylan, our history is at times made of moments of pride and shame, beauty and ugliness, unchangeable and polarizing our civilization as it unfolds. All moments and monuments to those moments and men should be remembered, if not to guide us forward then to keep us in check, not to repeat the past. Let it be.
Jan. 26, 2:07 pm
Helen from Brooklyn Heights says:
Hypocrisy - these same people buy products made by Chinese slaves. They don’t care about human suffering, just virtue signalling.
Jan. 26, 4:21 pm
Sue from Brooklyn says:
Helen from Brooklyn Heights, unless you are friends or acquaintances with the specific people who are speaking out against the statue, you can't possibly have knowledge of their shopping habits or what you suppose to be be their innermost thoughts.
Jan. 26, 5:36 pm
Sue from Brooklyn says:
Rufus Leaking from BH, people who didn't previously know about Sims' heinous activities now do, and they are reacting appropriately.
Jan. 26, 5:43 pm
Rufus Leaking from BH says:
But, he invented the speculum. I bet you are grateful for that. Imagine the alternative.

The surgery was done on slaves, not his, to relieve their pain. Anesthesia was not available in the beginning of his work, and was not widely used in the following years. A who lot less heinous than you have told yourself.

Perhaps he should have left the slaves to suffer with their medical problem. After all that would have taught their owners!

So, yes Sue, they are acting appropriately -ignorantly, but appropriately.
Jan. 26, 6:01 pm
Sue from Brooklyn says:
Rufus Leaking from BH, the Department of Education headquarters is NOT named after anybody. DOE headquarters is in the "Old New York County Courthouse." Construction of the building was completed in 1881, and New Yorkers began referring to it as the "Tweed Courthouse" a very long time before the DOE moved into it in 2008.
Jan. 26, 6:06 pm
Sue from Brooklyn says:
Rufus, I don't know why you're focusing on who owned these human beings, but the women WERE his slaves. He bought them. He owned them. He conducted experimental procedures on them. He only conducted these experiments on black slaves. They were his to do with as he chose and as often as he chose.
Jan. 26, 6:19 pm
Rufus Leaking from BH says:
Looks like Sue has trouble with facts.

The building is the New County Courthouse. It was euphemistically called the Tweed Courthouse, but as of 2003, the words were literally written in stone, at the base of the steps.
Jan. 26, 9:58 pm
Janie from Windsor Terrace says:
Early medicine was often pretty creepy. It continues to be. Consider the various blood and waste draining apparatus for animal testing.
Jan. 27, 7:36 am
Jean from Windsor Terrace says:
Sue from Brooklyn - your rightwing, racist ramblings might fly in the Donald Trump loving circles you run in, but they are offensive to us! Just because your tiny heart is full of hate doesn’t mean you are required to sit here and regurgitate out on us. This is a serious message board, and your garbage belongs in trash. Where I bet you feel very at home. Trash.
Jan. 27, 1:09 pm
Sue from Brooklyn says:
Jean from Windsor Terrace, my comments oppose Sims' inhumane treatment of black female slaves.
Jan. 28, 2:15 pm
Sue from Brooklyn says:
Rufus, DOE is in the Old New York County Courthouse. It was PREVIOUSLY named the New County Courthouse.

The building is familiarly or popularly called the Tweed Courthouse. "Tweed Courthouse" is NOT a euphemism, which is "a mild, indirect, or vague expression for one thought to be offensive, harsh, or blunt."
Jan. 28, 2:25 pm
Janie from Windsor Terrace says:
Even though I have little interest in erasing history and am able to appreciate the artistic merit of this piece, I can't help but ask was this person buried at Greenwood? If not, better for it to go to a sculpture collection of some kind.

Meanwhile, haven't we a playground recently renamed after an artist who was arrested for a variety of crimes, thus detracting from the original efforts to realize it?
Jan. 28, 2:53 pm
Rufus Leaking from BH says:
I guess chiseled in stone is not enough evidence for Sue.

But she will always think of the Dr. When she sees speculum.
Jan. 28, 9:52 pm
Sue from Brooklyn says:
Gotta love ya in spite of yourself, Rufus.
Feb. 2, 7:10 pm

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