Columbus’ day, or not?


An 1876 monument dedicated to Christopher Columbus in Mexico City. Published by Claudio Pellandini

Sam Johnson , Staff Writer

522 years ago, a mistake made by one man would change the world. Today, to Urban students. it means a three-day weekend, and not much more.

On Monday, Oct. 13 the national holiday of Columbus Day gave Urban students a day off of school.

Even though many students probably spent their day off enjoying the hot weather, spending time with friends or family, or catching up on homework, few students took the time to think about what Columbus Day is, or why it is a significant part of American history. None of the 75 Urban students surveyed on Oct. 14 said that they celebrate the holiday in any way.

Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer that sailed to the New World, as the Americas were known then, on Oct. 12, 1492. Contrary to popular belief, Columbus did not discover America; there were already millions of Indigenous people living on the continent. As such, the name Columbus Day is a bit of a misnomer.

Much controversy has surrounded the naming of the holiday. On Oct. 12, 1992, Berkley, CA officially changed the name from Columbus Day to Indigenous People Day. The goal was to respect and remember the culture of Native Americans, just one group of people harmed by the centuries of trans-Atlantic colonization that Columbus began.

According to, on Columbus’s second trip to the newfound land, he brought the Spanish army and proceeded to sell the Native Americans into slavery, beginning the transatlantic slave trade.

However, Columbus Day can also spread a feeling of patriotism for Americans and Italians. Many patriotic Americans feel pride for Columbus because he is thought to have discovered the country they live in. At the same time, some Italian-Americans appreciate the holiday because Columbus was an Italian explorer, born in the Republic of Genoa, Italy.

Accordingly, on Columbus Day some states, including New York, hold huge Italian-American parades in order to respect both cultures, but they lack the recognition of the history of Indigenous people.

Columbus’ breakthrough in European colonization and exploration led to the transformation of America, however he is also remembered for the brutal impact made on the Native Americans, leaving some people with many reasons not to celebrate this holiday.

But to Urban students, Columbus Day is just a celebration of a day off of school. One of the students surveyed noted that it’s “nice to remember the negative and positive sides of what happened, but it’s even nicer that we don’t have school.”