In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison established a one-time holiday. The purpose was to mark the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ voyage.
Making it Official:
It took many decades for this observance to become a recurring event. In 1937, Franklin Roosevelt, then President, proclaimed Columbus Day a national holiday. It’s been observed annually since then.
The Date of Celebration:
Interestingly, the holiday’s date has changed over time. Initially, it was celebrated on October 12. In 1971, however, the date was shifted to the second Monday in October.
The day commemorates Columbus’ arrival in the New World. This explorer, a native of Genoa, Italy, had set sail in August 1492. His aim was to find a new route to Asia, but instead, he stumbled upon the Americas.
Columbus day Controversy:
Celebrations of this day aren’t universally accepted. Critics argue it glorifies the explorer’s acts of violence and subjugation against native populations. This criticism has led to the emergence of alternative celebrations.
Many places have adopted Indigenous Peoples’ Day, honoring native populations. South Dakota has a unique spin, celebrating Native American Day instead.
The Explorer’s Legacy:
While the explorer’s arrival marked a turning point in history, it also brought suffering. His voyages led to the widespread colonization of the Americas and the suffering of indigenous people.
Exploring the history of Columbus Day is a journey through time. It’s a story of exploration and discovery, but also of controversy and change. As we commemorate this day, we must remember all aspects of its history.