Origins Of Columbus Day In The United States
In 1492 . . .
“In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue” is a common rhyme spoken by schoolchildren in the United States in early October. The reason is simple; October 12 marks the date of Christopher’s Columbus’ arrival in the new world. The day is celebrated in many different counties in the “new world” and has become a national holiday in the United States, although it is now without its controversies.
Observance in the United States.
New York City held the first recorded celebration of Columbus Day on October 12, 1792. This celebration marked the 300th anniversary of Columbus finding the new world. The event was organized by a group called the Colombian Order which was composed of a large group of Italian Immigrants. Later, San Francisco held a celebration honoring Columbus in 1869 organized by San Francisco’s large Italian population.
In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison issued a Presidential Proclamation that urged citizens to participate in celebrations honoring the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s landing. President Harrison did not official declare a national day of observance however.
In 1905, Colorado became the first state of officially observe Columbus Day. In 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt officially proclaimed October 12 as Columbus Day. In 1971, President Nixon declared the second Monday of October a national holiday. In the United States, the day is generally observed by banks, the post office and other government agencies; however most schools and businesses remain open. Not all states observe Columbus Day however. Alaska and Nevada do not officially celebrate Columbus Day at all. Hawaii celebrates “Discover’s Day.” Other states celebrate “Native Americans” day instead of Columbus Day.
For the most part, most of the United States celebrates Columbus Day in one way or another. In Columbus, Ohio, a giant parade is held through downtown. The same is true in New York and Boston, mostly organized by Italian heritage groups. Others celebrate Columbus Day by offering history lessons on Columbus’ life and voyages and many schools mark this day by learning about Columbus’s finding of America.
Controversies Surrounding Honoring Christopher Columbus
While Columbus Day was supposed to mark a historical moment, to many it is remembered as a day of dishonor and is observed in protest. Christopher Columbus many argued is not a historical figure to be honored but rather is a man who should be forgotten. The reasons are many.
First, Columbus upon discovery America enslaved and exploited the Native Americans whom he found already living in the New World. Further, Columbus forced the native peoples he found into Christianity by force. Lastly, with Columbus came disease that killed many of the indigenous peoples he came across.
Because of this part of Columbus’ legacy, Columbus Day is a day that brings many protestors out in the streets to give voice to the plight of Native Americans of the past, and to their plight today.
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