That Controversial Columbus
For the most part, Christopher Columbus has been honored in America as a hero, plain and simple. Today he is the subject of much debate, some even calling him "father of the Transatlantic slave trade." Here is how the day has been and is today remembered in its brief and now controversial history:
1) President Benjamin Harrison instituted a national Columbus Day to patriotically celebrate the 400th anniversary of America's discovery. But Italian Americans, who suffered discrimination in 1892, used the new holiday to identify with the great explorer and thus to bolster their standing in U.S. society.
2) Colorado, the first state to celebrate the holiday, was the site of intense protests against Columbus Day in 1989. That year, a group of American Indian Movement activists poured fake blood on a statue of Columbus. A few years later, their protests succeeded in thwarting a Columbus Day Parade in Colorado.
3) Alternative names for the most controversial holiday in America include Indigenous Peoples Day in Berkeley, California, Bartolomé Day (honoring instead Bartolomé de las Casas), Native American Day in South Dakota, and Discovery Day in Hawaii.
4) Although Columbus Day is an official federal holiday, according to Pew Research, only 23 states give their employees a paid day off.
5) The online news outlet The Oatmeal condemned Columbus by saying he "discovered the New World much like a meteorite discovered the dinosaurs." Instead, the comic strip suggested celebrating Bartolomé de las Casas, an adventurer-turned-philanthropist who fought for justice for the natives in the New World.
6) The National Council of Churches encouraged Christians to refrain from celebrating the 500th anniversary of Columbus's discovery. Their statement said, "What represented newness of freedom, hope, and opportunity for some was the occasion for oppression, degradation, and genocide for others."