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The monument to James Marion Sims located at Fifth Avenue and East 103 Street, across from the New York Academy of Medicine.

Mayor Bill de Blasio Orders Review of Antebellum Monuments Scattered Throughout New York City

In the wake of the murderous alt-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month—organized to protest the removal of a statute of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate and white supremacist icon—cities throughout the United States are working harder at clearing away pieces that commemorate figures and events associated with the Confederacy during the American Civil War. For instance, four Confederate monuments were “quickly and quietly” taken down under the cover of night in Baltimore shortly after the events in Charlottesville, as ordered by the city’s mayor, Catherine Pugh. Now Bill de Blasio, New York City’s mayor, has asked for a “ninety-day review of all symbols of hate on city property,” writes Aaron Short of Hyperallergic.

Indeed, there are a number of these monuments throughout the city, many of which were provided by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, an organization founded in 1894 in Nashville, Tennessee, the “outgrowth of numerous ladies’ hospital associations, sewing societies, and knitting circles that worked throughout the South during the War Between the States to supply the needs of the soldiers,” as per the group’s website. Among them: a pair of plaques commemorating Robert E. Lee in the Fort Hamilton neighborhood of Brooklyn that have already been uprooted by the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, and busts of two Confederate generals located in the Bronx Community College’s “Hall of Fame.” (Ruben Diaz Jr., the Bronx borough president, suggested sending the busts to the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga Springs, “where they could be presented in a historical context rather than venerated,” he said.)

But there are other symbols, unrelated to the efforts of the UDC, which have been in the city for ages and are now under scrutiny, such as a large statute of J. Marion Sims, located at Fifth Avenue and East 103 Street, across from the New York Academy of Medicine (Sims is considered the “father of modern gynecology,” but he performed operations and experiments on black women who were slaves), and a sidewalk plaque honoring Philippe Pétain, a Nazi collaborator, installed along the Canyon of Heroes on Broadway in the Financial District. There are also two streets in the Fort Hamilton army base, named after Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee, that Congresswoman Yvette Clarke is pressuring the US Army to rename: “The time has come for the Army to remove from Fort Hamilton and other military installations the disgraced names of men who waged war against the United States to preserve the evil institution of slavery,” she said.

The president, however, is clueless about the desire many have to take down these rememberances after the horrors of Charlottesville. “This week it’s Robert E. Lee. I notice that Stonewall Jackson’s coming down,” he said during a speech at Trump Tower on August 15. “I wonder, is it George Washington next week, and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”

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