Fly your flag today: Columbus Day


Fly your U.S. flag today. Fly it to honor Columbus’s discovery of the Americas.

The second Monday in October is celebrated as Columbus Day, a federal holiday (though not widely honored in private enterprise).  Columbus made landfall in the Americas for the first time on October 12, 1492, 516 years ago.

John Vanderlyn Oil on canvas, 12 x 18 Commissioned 1836/1837; placed 1847 Rotunda    Christopher Columbus is shown landing in the West Indies, on an island that the natives called Guanahani and he named San Salvador, on October 12, 1492. He raises the royal banner, claiming the land for his Spanish patrons, and stands bareheaded, with his hat at his feet, in honor of the sacredness of the event. The captains of the Niña and Pinta follow, carrying the banner of Ferdinand and Isabella. The crew displays a range of emotions, some searching for gold in the sand. Natives watch from behind a tree.  John Vanderlyn (1775-1852) had studied with Gilbert Stuart and was the first American painter to be trained in Paris, where he worked on this canvas for ten years with the help of assistants.

John Vanderlyn, Oil on canvas, 12′ x 18′ – Commissioned 1836/1837; placed 1847 in the Rotunda of the Capitol. Christopher Columbus is shown landing in the West Indies, on an island that the natives called Guanahani and he named San Salvador, on October 12, 1492. He raises the royal banner, claiming the land for his Spanish patrons, and stands bareheaded, with his hat at his feet, in honor of the sacredness of the event. The captains of the Niña and Pinta follow, carrying the banner of Ferdinand and Isabella. The crew displays a range of emotions, some searching for gold in the sand. Natives watch from behind a tree. John Vanderlyn (1775-1852) had studied with Gilbert Stuart and was the first American painter to be trained in Paris, where he worked on this canvas for ten years with the help of assistants.

 

11 Responses to Fly your flag today: Columbus Day

  1. […] Previously at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, a bit more on Columbus […]

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  2. Kate says:

    Honestly, I like to set up an old style “he said/ she said” in the classroom. Divide the class in half, one half being indigenous,the other European. I give them resources from both sides, and then sit them down facing each other and let them argue it out or try to convince each other.

    What do I think? I don’t know that Columbus is any braver than any other explorer of the day, I think he’s over-rated, and has been chosen as an icon for an idea that’s part of the American Myth. There are always conquests in history. Yes, they shape nations, continents… heck they shape the world. But I always want to make clear that this is a conquest, not merely Europe overflowing into an empty continent, which is what we were taught when we were young.

    I have less objection to teaching about Columbus and more to teaching about him the way he’s been traditionally taught from kindergarden up, with coloring pages of a smiling Columbus being greeted by happy Indians in loincloths, flag flying and parades. I don’t think Columbus warrants a holiday. I do think he has a place in history.

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  3. I gove it up to the Italian Americans of this land but have to agree with Bug girl on the whole genocide and slavery thing.
    The people were so happy living at one with Nature….but we had our own slavery and violence here that is nothing new. Mabey we could make this -Let us all evolve day- and keep a day for Peace.

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  4. Ed Darrell says:

    I usually mark the date of the liberation of the death camps — though to be honest, I’ve never flown a flag for it. In history class, we mark a lot of dates not on the calendar, from the Battle of Marathon to Thomas Jefferson’s birthday.

    Let’s ignore the issue of flying the flag for the moment. How should we discuss the European collision with the Americas? Yes, there were atrocities, and what can only be termed genocide. Could European colonization have proceeded without that? I think so.

    Still: Columbus’s voyage was an astounding act of bravery. It marked a great turning point in the history of the entire planet. European colonization had many moments of grandeur and bravery, and noble accomplishment. Describing the events is essential to understanding the Americas today.

    Can we treat the colonization as entirely evil and destructive? I think we do a great injustice to history if we do.

    What do you suggest, Kate? Anyone else?

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  5. Kate says:

    What we should NOT do is make it some sort of holiday, some sort of patriotic icon. Do we forget history? no. Do we HONOR those things that are wrong just because they’re part of our American Myth? It seems so.

    I’m sorry… do we HAVE a Holocaust Day where we fly our flags and remember Hitler? Do Americans recognize Yom Hashoah with parades and floats?

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  6. Ed Darrell says:

    Since we already know that the Vikings, the Chinese, and possibly the Polynesians had reached the “New World” long before Columbus, I have to wonder why schools (and teachers) continue to support teaching that Columbus is somehow worthy of note.

    World history is a study of turning points. Columbus’s voyage certainly qualifies on that criterion. Unlike the previous explorations of the Vikings and the Chinese, and perhaps the Polynesians, Columbus’s discovery was noted officially by governments, and it spurred the development and destruction of much of the New World.

    Failing to note the day at all would be a bit like pretending the Holocaust didn’t happen, wouldn’t it? It was a turning point on several scores, not least that it brought an era of misery to the residents already in America. Should we forget their sacrifices and suffering?

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  7. toby says:

    Since the discovery of America was followed within a century by the deaths of millions of people due to the diseases the Europeans brought with them, is “celebration” the right word here?

    Even leaving aside the slavery and the theft of the land, the deaths due to diseases like small pox are accepted by most historians at this stage.

    We don’t celebrate the Black Death or the Spanish Flu, why pretend the “discovery” of America was joyous event?

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  8. Kate says:

    Now should I tell you how I REALLY feel?

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  9. Kate says:

    And of course to prove his discovery, and because he wasn’t able to bring back the promised spices, he returned with a different cargo: a handful of slaves for Isabella from among the indigenous people.

    Since we already know that the Vikings, the Chinese, and possibly the Polynesians had reached the “New World” long before Columbus, I have to wonder why schools (and teachers) continue to support teaching that Columbus is somehow worthy of note. I suppose it’s because Spain and Italy are still considered “Civilized” while Denmark, China, and the Polynesian Islands were not, therefore, like the Americas, not “inhabited” but merely populated by man-like animals living in loose social groupings begging to be taught how to live like real (European) human beings.

    I’ll be damned if I’m going encourage anyone to “Fly your U.S. flag today. Fly it to honor the Columbus’s discovery of the Americas.” (or fly one myself) when Columbus most certainly didn’t “discover” the Americas, except in the same way that one discovers their new car at a shopping mall by smashing the window and hot wiring it.

    I will, however, pin a medicine wheel to my lapel today.

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  10. Ed Darrell says:

    That’s been a hot topic on the AP World History discussion list over the past couple of weeks. I’m just noting the flag-fly day here.

    Thanks for the link. In a longer post, if anyone had time, we ought to discuss the earlier “discovery” and settlement of the Vikings, and the evidence that a Chinese fleet discovered America from the west about 70 years earlier.

    Yes, any thorough study of the European settlement of the Americas must discuss slavery, genocide, and the “Columbian Exchange,” or “Grand Exchange,” especially including a discussion of the unwitting and witting swaps of diseases.

    Topics for other posts.

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  11. bug_girl says:

    um. Perhaps you should mention Indigenous Peoples’ day?
    http://www.uua.org/socialjustice/calendar/114099.shtml

    I’m just sayin’, celebrating a “discovery” that led to genocide and slavery without a mention…..seems incomplete.

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