Today, 12 October 2023, is the traditional Columbus Day.
Over at thenewneo.com is a reprise of a 2022 post that revealed to me an odd fact: it was not our indigenous peoples or other ethnic minorities that started the anti-Columbus thing, it was white supremacists.
Neo quotes a National Review article (the link seems dead since then) by Jennifer C. Braceras which pulls the cover off the Klan [the emphasis is Neo's]:
Here, in the United States, the anti-Columbus movement was sparked by white supremacists nearly 100 years ago. In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan promoted negative characterizations of Columbus in order to vilify Catholics and immigrants, many of whom celebrated Columbus not only as a source of ethnic and religious pride but also as a symbol of the free and diverse society that resulted from the European presence here. The Klan tried to prevent the erection of monuments to the Great Navigator, burned crosses in opposition to efforts to honor him, and argued that commemorations of his voyage were part of a papal plot. Rather than honor a Catholic explorer from the Mediterranean, Klansmen proposed honoring the Norseman Leif Eriksson as discoverer of the New World and a symbol of white pride.
I didn't know "identity politics" of that kind went back that far. Also hadn't thought much about whether back in history (apart from religious iconoclasts) anybody was getting all worked up about statues.
Neo quotes this long section from TheHill.com, which I found educational:
In the 1920s, from coast to coast, members of the Ku Klux Klan opposed Columbus. In Richmond, they tried to stop the erection of a Columbus monument. In Pennsylvania, they burned fiery crosses to threaten those celebrating Columbus. The Klan newspaper, The American Standard, attacked honoring Columbus – on the basis that a holiday for him was some sort of papal plot.
The Klan was no fan of Columbus. He stood athwart their nativist desire for a country pure in its Anglo-Saxon and Protestant origins.
What Americans have forgotten is that white supremacy has historically sought not only the denigration of African-Americans and Jews but also of Catholics – and among them Hispanics – ascribing to the latter all manner of harmful stereotypes as brutal criminals and sexual predators. This narrative is known throughout the Spanish-speaking world and in academic circles as the “Black Legend.”
Historian Philip Wayne Powell wrote of this smear campaign: “The basic premise of the Black Legend is that Spaniards have shown themselves, historically, to be uniquely cruel, bigoted, tyrannical, obscurantist, lazy, fanatical, greedy, and treacherous; that is, that they differ so much from other peoples in these traits that Spaniards and Spanish history must be viewed and understood in terms not ordinarily used in describing and interpreting other peoples.”…
In the rush to judge and deface, few remember that it was Spain that forbade slavery of most Native Americans and made them Spanish citizens. Fewer still remember that Columbus seems to have faced arrest by his fellow explorers for punishing – even executing – those who had abused Native Americans. And almost no one recalls that it was not Columbus but the exaggerating zealot Bartolome De Las Casas, who is most often cited in smearing Spanish exploration and with it Columbus, who was the one who proposed African slavery for the New World.
Anyway when I was growing up, every 12th of October my mother would recite the 1492 poem (well at least the beginning). The beginning is pasted below. The poem seems to be widely credited to Jean Marzollo, an editor at Scholastic Books. But Jean was born in 1942 and my mother learned the poem in the 1930s. Go figure. Here you go:
In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
He had three ships and left from Spain;
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.
He sailed by night; he sailed by day;
He used the stars to find his way.
A compass also helped him know
How to find the way to go...