Lies My Teacher Told Me About Christopher Columbus

Poster and booklet. By James W. Loewen. 2006; updated 2014.
Graphic corrective to the traditional textbook narratives about Columbus.

Time Periods: 1492
Themes: Native American

Lies My Teacher Told Me About Christopher Columbus (Poster and Booklet) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

In Lies My Teacher Told Me About Christopher Columbus, the bestselling author of Lies My Teacher Told Me offers a graphic corrective to the Columbus story told in so many American classrooms. First published over fifteen years ago and long out of print, the poster and accompanying paperback book sum up the mis-tellings — and reveal the real story — in a graphically appealing and accessible format.

The poster juxtaposes short quotes from a range of high school textbooks currently in use, with excerpts from primary sources that clearly show how textbooks have “lied” by knowingly substituting crowd-pleasing myths for grim and gruesome historical evidence.

In fact, these textbooks intentionally omitted every important detail that we do know about Columbus’s fateful voyage to the Americas. Among countless other facts, Loewen demonstrates that Columbus and his men were far from the first to set foot in the “New World,” and that the peoples he encountered there did not submit to the “godlike” authority of him and his crewmen, but rather to the deadly forms of smallpox and bubonic plague they brought with them from Europe. [Description from the publisher.]

ISBN: 9781595589859 | The New Press


4 comments on “Lies My Teacher Told Me About Christopher Columbus

  1. Mayes76 on

    It’s always interesting, though, to read comments like those of Ms. Clarendon. The hero mentality of the Eurocentric kind is one that is nearly impossible for some to relinquish.

  2. Kermit on

    If you’re on this website, you probably don’t need me to debunk the above comment by Linda Clarendon, but all it really takes is a close reading to see the fallacies all throughout. First she talks about “undermining the American spirit”. Right, if the American spirit is one of colonization and slavery, then it is one we should undermine. Columbus was a mass-murderer, and what the commenter describes as “opening the Americas to European ideas”—those ideas were conquest, theft, murder, and destruction. The only thing Columbus opened, was the gate to genocide and the start of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. His motivations for even setting out on his journey, was greed, and he ended up dying broke and disgraced. This is fact, well-documented by people other than Howard Zinn. And it’s not like Zinn makes the stuff up; his writings are thoroughly researched and reliably sourced. No one really argues the details about Columbus. The argument, really, is what part of the story should we tell? And if your goal is to sustain a white supremacist status quo, then sure, leave out all the bad stuff. If your goal is truth, then you have to tell the whole story. Literally nothing Linda Clarendon says is true, especially about Columbus’s exceptionalism.

  3. Linda Clarendon on

    Seems like the “Lies” are being taught now. Christopher Columbus is being unfairly villainized by people like Howard Zinn and others who seek to undermine the American value and spirit. With such ideas that only Europeans brought disease to the Indians, no one remembers that the Indians gave back in like kind: encephalitis, syphilis,polio and hepatitis, to name a few. When Columbus had to leave 39 men behind because of shipwreck, when he returned all had been killed by the indians. CC opened the Americas to European ideas and accomplishments, which the Indians could not have come up with by themselves and have certainly benefitted from, such as vaccines, electricity, railroads, refrigeration, light, education, hospitals, and the list goes on. He was among few who could have crossed the ocean successfully at that time, with so little to guide him.

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