Archive for Christopher Columbus

Action Needed to Save Columbus Day in Baltimore

Columbus Day
The following email about city legislation affecting Columbus Day was sent today to local members of the Knights of Columbus by the national KofC – please share it with your friends and call Friday:

The Baltimore City Council is voting on Monday, Dec. 5, on a proposal to eliminate Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous Peoples’ and Italian-Americans’ Day.

We urge you to call the city hall operator THIS WEEK at 410-396-3100 or the Office of the City Council President at 410-396-4804 to respectfully express your support for preserving Columbus Day.

The following points may be useful in your conversation:

  1. October 12 should continue to be celebrated as Columbus Day. We strongly object to and oppose any efforts to abolish or diminish this holiday by repeal, dilution or replacement. Such actions are unfair to Columbus himself and to those who celebrate his holiday.

  2. The legacy and accomplishments of Christopher Columbus deserve to be celebrated. He was a man ahead of his time and a fearless explorer and brilliant navigator whose daring discovery changed the course of history.

  3. Columbus has frequently been falsely blamed for the actions of those who came after him and is the victim of horrific slanders concerning his conduct.

  4. Long-time Stanford University Professor Carol Delaney has done extensive research debunking many of the negative myths about Columbus. In fact, she paints a positive portrait of a man who had generally benign relations with the Native Americans and has been unfairly blamed for everything that ever went wrong in the New World after his arrival.

  5. Advocating the addition of a new holiday is one thing, but it is something else altogether to lobby for the diminishment or elimination of an already well-established holiday that is celebrated by Americans year after year.

  6.  Because Columbus Day has special meaning — including to many Italian Americans and Catholics — efforts to repeal, diminish or replace Columbus Day are unfair and hurtful to those communities, regardless of what substitutions are offered.

More on Columbus Day

In 2014,  I wrote about Carol Delaney and her research that debunked many myths about Columbus. She also found that Columbus was searching for gold to help fund a new crusade to retake Jerusalem from Muslim invaders.

Columbus sought gold for crusade retaking Jerusalem?

Columbus

A Columbia magazine interview with Carol Delaney detailed her background:

[A] cultural anthropologist and long-time professor at Stanford University, had little knowledge or interest in Columbus — that is, until she was teaching a course called “Millennial Fever” at Stanford in 1999 and came across a reference to the explorer’s apocalyptic beliefs. Delaney was intrigued and set out to research Columbus at Brown University in the summer of 2003. Two years later, she retired from Stanford to devote herself to research, which launched a remarkable journey in the footsteps of the explorer.

The same interview discusses Delaney’s book, Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem: How Religion Drove the Voyages that Led to America.

From the interview:

Everybody knows that Columbus was trying to find gold, but they don’t know what the gold was for: to fund a crusade to take Jerusalem back from the Muslims before the end of the world. A lot of people at the time thought that the apocalypse was coming because of all the signs: the plague, famine, earthquakes and so forth. And it was believed that before the end, Jerusalem had to be back in Christian hands so that Christ could return in judgment. Columbus actually calculated how many years were left before the end of the world. He seemed to think of his whole voyage as a mission, which was part of this apocalyptic scenario.

Delaney also discusses Columbus wanting to evangelize and convert the natives after they were instructed in the faith properly. She points out that Columbus thought he could convert the Grand Khan of China to Christianity and that his forces could march on Jerusalem from the east. She also wrote about Columbus ordering his men to treat the natives with respect.

Delaney’s assessment of Columbus and his successes:

He was angry with King Ferdinand for not pursuing the crusade, and he recognized that terrible crimes had been committed. From this point of view, he felt the quest was a failure. In reality, it was a major accomplishment. Columbus went across the ocean four times in small wooden ships, without the use of modern instruments. In the process, he discovered the New World, even though he thought that he had found only the periphery of Asia.

 

From a review of Delaney’s book:

Delaney argues that Columbus was inspired to find a western route to the Orient not only to obtain vast sums of gold for the Spanish Crown but primarily to fund a new crusade to take Jerusalem from the Muslims before the end of the world—a goal that sustained him until the day he died. Drawing from oft-ignored sources, some from Columbus’s own hand, Delaney depicts her subject as a thoughtful interpreter of the native cultures that he and his men encountered, and tells the tragic story of how his initial attempts to establish good relations with the natives turned badly sour. Showing Columbus in the context of his times rather than through the prism of present-day perspectives on colonial conquests reveals a man who was neither a greedy imperialist nor a quixotic adventurer, but a man driven by an abiding religious passion. Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem is not an apologist’s take, but a clear-eyed, thought-provoking, and timely reappraisal of the man and his legacy.