Goodbye, Columbus?

by Ed Sawicki

Beheaded Columbus statue in Boston
Beheaded statue of Columbus in Boston

On June 11, 2020, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that New York City's statue of Christopher Columbus should not be removed because of its importance to the Italian American community. “I understand the feelings about Christopher Columbus and some of his acts, which nobody would support,” said Cuomo, “but the statue has come to represent and signify appreciation for the Italian American contribution to New York. For that reason, I support it.”

Listen to the audio from WNYC for why many Italian Americans want the Columbus statue to stay in spite of him being a slave trader and murderer:

Is it reasonable to expect that American Southerners give up their statues of Confederate heros but allow statues of Columbus to remain?

Inscriptions

These words are inscribed on the statue of Columbus at Columbus Circle, New York:

TO
CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS
THE, ITALIANS RESIDENT IN AMERICA,
SCOFFED AT BEFORE,
DURING THE VOYAGE, MENACED,
AFTER IT, CHAINED,
AS GENEROUS AS OPPRESSED,
TO THE WORLD HE GAVE A WORLD.
JOY AND GLORY
NEVER UTTERED A MORE THRILLING CALL
THAT THAT WHICH RESOUNDED
FROM THE CONQUERED OCEAN
IN SIGHT OF THE FIRST AMERICAN ISLAND
LAND! LAND!
ON THE XII OF OCTOBER MDCCCXCII
THE FOURTH CENTENARY
OF THE DISCOVERY OF AMERICA
IN IMPERISHABLE REMEMBRANCE.

You're not going to read all this from a moving car traveling around the Circle. So, you're going to walk to the statue.

If this statue is the way Americans learn about Columbus, that history lesson is a bit thin—and biased. Here's a better idea: learn about Christopher Columbus online. It doesn't require you to travel to Columbus Circle, New York. Clearly, the notion that removing statues removes a piece of our history is a very weak argument.

Famous Italians

Italian Americans have a lot of famous people of their heritage to be proud of without putting a slave trader on a pedestal. The table shows a representative list of famous Italians with their birthdates should we want to declare these dates to be holidays or days of recognition and appreciation.

Birthday Name Occupation
Jan 20, 1920 Federico Fellini Film director
Feb 15, 1564 Galileo Galilei Astronomer
Feb 18, 1745 Alessandro Volta Scientist
Mar 4, 1678 Antonio Vivaldi Composer
Mar 6, 1475 Michelangelo Painter
Apr 7, 1939 Francis Ford Coppola Film director
Apr 13, 1808 Antonio Meucci Inventor
Apr 15, 1938 Claudia Cardinale Actress
Apr 15, 1452 Leonardo da Vinci Invention, science, music, math, etc.
Apr 22, 1909 Rita Levi-Montalcini Scientist
Apr 22, 1807 Luigi Palmieri Physicist
Apr 25, 1874 Guglielmo Marconi Inventor
May 4, 1265 Dante Alighieri Author
May 3, 1469 Niccolò Machiavelli Diplomat, writer
Jun 16, 1313 Giovanni Boccaccio Writer
Jun 18, 1952 Isabella Rossellini Actress
Jul 4, 1927 Gina Lollobrigida Actress, sculptor
Aug 5, 1906 Ettore Majorana Physicist
Aug 17, 1943 Robert De Niro Actor, producer, director
Aug 18, 1912 Elsa Morante Childrens book author
Aug 31, 1870 Maria Montessori Physician, educator
Sep 9, 1737 Luigi Galvani Physician
Sep 20, 1934 Sophia Loren Actress
Sep 25, 1773 Agostino Bassi Entomologist
Sep 28, 1924 Marcello Mastroianni Actor
Sep 30, 1964 Monica Bellucci Actress, model
Oct 10, 1813 Giuseppe Verdi Composer
Oct 12, 1935 Luciano Pavarotti Opera singer
Oct 15, 1608 Evangelista Torricelli Physicist, mathematician
Dec 6, 1586 Niccolò Zucchi Astronomer
Dec 22, 1858 Giacomo Puccini Composer

Sources

Cuomo Says New York City's Columbus Statue Should Stay

Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledges support for Christopher Columbus statue in Manhattan

WNYC: The Complicated History of the Christopher Columbus Statue

Why Columbus Day Courts Controversy: Christopher Columbus undoubtedly changed the world. But was it for the better?

CNN: Why Christopher Columbus wasn't the hero we learned about in school

When Is Dante’s Birthday?

 

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