The Columbus Project
Dealing in history, not hypocrisy
Prevailing narratives have turned one side into victims, and the other side into villains. Would you be surprised to learn that thousands of enslaved Africans were owned by Native Americans, or that Columbus — who never owned a slave and adopted a Taino boy as his son — became an American icon starting in 1892 after 11 Italians were murdered in New Orleans? Too few know the full story, which is why it’s time to break the cycle, come together and speak the facts.
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Charting a new course
Let’s correct the narrative surrounding Columbus’s legacy, rebuild statues of the navigator, construct new monuments that honor the Indigenous population and establish inter-cultural public spaces that deepen and widen a highly complex and nuanced discussion. (This isn’t just wishful thinking; we’re crafting and fighting for these very solutions as we speak in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Syracuse, Chicago and New Jersey.)
Pittsburgh’s Columbus statue in Schenley Park has been covered up by Mayor Bill Peduto, while he and Italian American leaders engage in mediation over the fate of the statue.
America’s largest-ever mass lynching
In 1891, 11 innocent Italian immigrants were lynched in New Orleans in front of a mob comprised of more than 5,000 people. In response, Italian Americans founded Columbus Day and built monuments of the navigator to fight discrimination and fuel assimilation (there were 40 more Italian lynchings during America’s Great Arrival). You won’t find these facts in any of today’s high school history books.
The full page print ad that ran on 9.27.21 in The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post; however, The New York Times refused to print it.
Visit the National Columbus Education Foundation website to access our sources and academic research.
From the top
This isn’t about party or politics, in fact, it’s the one thing leaders on both sides of the aisle agree on:
Joe Biden being inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States
“Taking down, toppling the Christopher Columbus statue or the George Washington statue, I think that is something that the government has an opportunity and a responsibility to protect from happening.” – Joe Biden
Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States
“525 years ago, Christopher Columbus completed an ambitious and daring voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas. The voyage was a remarkable and then-unparalleled feat that helped launch the age of exploration and discovery…” –Donald Trump
Academia takes on tough questions
Should we continue to celebrate Columbus Day?
Did Christopher Columbus commit genocide against the Indigenous Peoples of America?
Was Christopher Columbus nothing but a greedy opportunist?
Should Columbus Day be replaced and Columbus statues taken down?
Did Christopher Columbus introduce the slave trade to the Americas?
Is Columbus Day a holiday that celebrates white privilege?
“[Columbus’s voyage] was the most significant event to happen to our species.”
–Neil deGrasse Tyson
A way forward
Let’s reset and mutually explore the vast potential of intercultural collaboration, but let’s begin with a little homework.
Check our sources above, explore the academic research, and tell us your thoughts.
Email us to join the cause, offer feedback, or, if you’re with the media, to schedule an interview.
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The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, based in NYC, is a coalition that represents 61 prominent cultural, educational, fraternal and anti-defamation groups, which seek to promote our storied culture for today’s generations and tomorrow’s.
(Photo credits: Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, Gaga Skidmore, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Andrew Stein-iStock, THEPALMER-iStock)