In elementary school I won a Columbus Day essay contest sponsored by the Roman Cultural Society of Springfield, Illinois for making the audacious claim (so I was told) that Columbus did not discover America. I have ignored Columbus since then, except as a disease vector. I doubt I would have managed to win that contest had I known of another aspect of Columbus, which I only learned about today:
By the time Christopher Columbus appeared in Lisbon in 1477 an Old World slave trade was thriving in the eastern Atlantic between West Africa, the Atlantic islands, and Europe. In his famous letter on his first voyage he informed Ferdinand and Isabella he could, with their help, give them “slaves, as many as they shall order.” On his second voyage Columbus loaded five hundred Indian slaves aboard returning caravels. On the last leg of his voyage to Cadiz, “about two hundred of these Indians died,” a passenger recorded, appending, “We cast them into the sea.” In this manner the discoverer of the New World launched the transatlantic slave trade, at first in Indians and from west to east.
–James Rawley, with Stephen Behrendt, The Transatlantic Slave Trade
It is long past time to terminate officious recognition of Columbus Day and remove representations of slave owners from currency and other objects of jurisdiction worship. I consider this a mild compromise position on the road to smashing hero worship, which I admit has near zero constituency.