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You Think You Know Columbus Day?

By Rachel Levi; For The Clock
On October 6, 2016

You Think You Know Columbus Day?

Rachel Levi

For The Clock

October 12, 1492. Christopher Columbus landed in the New World, and in the 18th century “Columbus Day” was born. According to the library of congress Columbus Day did not become a national holiday until Franklin Roosevelt designated it as so in 1934. Although still celebrated nation wide, much controversy has surrounded the celebration of Columbus.

First of all, it is widely hypothesized that the Viking, Leif Ericson, discovered a Norse village about 500 years earlier than the landing of Columbus. Columbus also was responsible for landing in the Bahamas and for the consequential destruction of the Arawak’s, who welcomed him and his people kindly. Columbus proceeded to enslave them and seize their land for their gold.

According to the official US Public Holiday website some states have vetoed celebration of the holiday due to the truth regarding Columbus including Alaska, Hawaii and South Dakota. 

Plymouth State University, which once celebrated Columbus day by taking the day off in name of the Italian explorer, has recently adopted a new name for this day off “Fall Holiday.” As a consequence, we still get the day off without paying homage to Columbus. This can be credited to two faculty members, Robin DeRosa and Liz Ahl, who, in October of 2013, decided they would publicly protest the holiday.

Instead of taking the day off, they moved their office furniture to the green in front of the Hub and continued to work. According to Ahl they also “disseminated some literature about Christopher Columbus to explain why we were boycotting the holiday.” In March of the following year DeRosa put together a petition to change the name from Columbus Day to Fall Holiday. The petition was successful, and Ahl comments about this stating “This makes me pretty happy, because I don't want to celebrate a historical figure who pretty much started the trans-Atlantic slave trade and committed effective genocide against the Arawak Indians.” Most recently, a student by the name of Dan Spearman, has been working on a proposal to change Fall Break to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Who knows what we’ll be calling Fall Break next year?

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