As the battle to remove Confederate statues grows nationwide, several New York City monuments have found themselves in the spotlight.
In recent days, protestors have been demanding the city remove a statue of Dr. J. Marion Sims in Central Park. The controversial surgeon has been called “the father of modern gynecology,” but he often experimented on enslaved women without anesthesia.
But this week the debate shifted to the iconic monument of Christopher Columbus that stands tall in the Manhattan circle bearing the explorer’s name. A statue of Columbus, who some argue represents the colonization and ultimate oppression of Native Americans, was recently vandalized in Baltimore, Maryland.
The national debate of what to do with confederate and other controversial statues was re-ignited after the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month. But the conversation about confederate symbols began in earnest in 2015, after Dylann Roof killed nine people at a majority black church in Charleston, South Carolina. The state ultimately decided to remove the confederate flag that was flying at the state capitol.
A report published in 2016 by the Southern Poverty Law Center found that at least 1,500 symbols of the Confederacy are on display in public spaces across the U.S. That study lists three street names in New York City: Longstreet Avenue in the Bronx, and General Lee Avenue and Stonewall Jackson drive in Brooklyn.
Some of the state’s confederate symbols are already beginning to come town. Last week, the president of Bronx Community College announced that busts of Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson would be removed from the Hall of Fame For Great Americans. A plaque dedicated to Lee was also removed from a Brooklyn church.
And as for next steps, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Twitter last week that New York City will conduct a 90-day review of “all symbols of hate on city property.” On Tuesday, he elaborated that the goal is to make a standardized guide of how to evaluate all statues and symbols.