Sunday Roundup: Readings for Columbus Day

A year ago I published an essay on Columbus Day for CNN – What do you tell your kids about Columbus?

In October 2013, my daughter came home from school excited about Christopher Columbus. He had come to visit her class! During his visit, he told the children that he had figured out the world was round and then bravely led his crew to discover America. Then they all made telescopes.
As a father and history professor, I was caught off-guard. Columbus actually didn’t figure out the world was round. He didn’t really discover America, either. And telescopes weren’t around until about a century after Columbus died. But what do you tell a 5-year-old who has bought into a myth? And how do you do it without constructing an anti-myth, pegging the explorer as one of the most evil people to walk the Earth? What should we tell our children about Columbus?

The essay did well, with over 1000 clicks a minute for awhile on Columbus Day itself. CNN has republished it and promoted on their website, which is lovely to see, as I think it’s a good essay.

Tomorrow, I’m scheduled to be on NPR’s Here and Now to discuss Columbus, Columbus Day, and what we should tell our kids about messy pasts. If I’m lucky, we’ll be able to broaden the conversation to bigger issues about history and memory (and parenting and teaching).

Here’s what I’m reading or re-reading.

  • Yoni Appelbaum, now politics editor at the Atlantic, with a terrific piece from 2012 on the history of Columbus Day.
  • 1491 (from 2002. You should really just read the book).
  • Recent attempts to celebrate Native Americans on Columbus Day (We should celebrate the indigenous past, advocate for the future, and remember genocide).
  • And a National Geographic piece on Leif Erickson vs Columbus (anti-Italian nativists tried to celebrate Erickson in the early 20th century).
Tune in tomorrow on NPR!
My writing this week:
Thanks for reading.

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