Monday, October 12, 2015

Columbus Day facts

Back when the recent Drunk History New Orleans episode was soliciting ideas, I thought "Who killa da chief?" would have been a good one.  What they ended up doing was good but this was maybe something their audience probably wouldn't have known about.
Yet at the same time, before we move away from Columbus Day we can and should better engage with a number of telling historical contexts for the holiday, each of which can help connect us to forgotten American histories. For example, while some of us know about the role Italian Americans played in the holiday’s late-19th century growth, there’s virtually no collective memory of the historical event that most contributed to that trend. That would be the 1891 lynching of 11 Sicilian immigrants in New Orleans, triggered by the killing of the city’s police commissioner (a crime for which all 11 men had been found innocent). President Benjamin Harrison’s 1892 call for a national observance of Columbus Day, while connected to the 400th anniversary of the explorer’s first voyage, was also a rebuttal to this act of mob violence and the anti-Italian sentiments it reflected.

No comments: