What Columbus Day Really Means

William J. Connell (October 08, 2010)
If you think the holiday pits Native Americans against Italian Americans, consider the history behind its origin

During the run-up to Columbus Day I usually get a call from at least one and sometimes several newspaper reporters who are looking for the latest on what has become one of the most controversial of our national holidays. Rather than begin with whatever issues the media are covering–topics like the number of deaths in the New World caused by the European discovery; or the attitude of Columbus toward the indigenous inhabitants of the Caribbean (whom he really did want to use as forced laborers); or whether syphilis really came from the Americas to Europe; or whether certain people (the cast of The Sopranos, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia) deserve to be excluded from or honored in the parade in New York–I always try to remind the reporters that Columbus Day is just a holiday.

 (Originally published in The American Scholar)