Call to “Abolish Columbus Day” Has Unprecedented Reach


The recent If We Knew Our History article, “Time to Abolish Columbus Day,” has gone viral, as the call to change the name to Indigenous Peoples’ Day gains support across the country. Written by Bill Bigelow, Rethinking Schools curriculum editor and Zinn Education Project co-director, the article has received more than 140K Facebook likes on Common Dreams and the Huffington Post. It has also been referenced in national news media, including MSNBCThe Washington PostNonprofit Quarterly, and Common Dreams, and was posted on AlterNet.

We are encouraged that the truth about Columbus has reached the mainstream and that cities, school districts, and schools across the country are abandoning or renaming the holiday.

This public response to Columbus reflects many years of groundwork, most notably since the 1992 Quincentenary when Native American groups campaigned for the anniversary events to provide an honest accounting of the history. ZEP co-coordinator Rethinking Schools released the teaching guide, Rethinking Columbus, for K-12 schools in advance of the Quincentenary. School districts across the country ordered tens of thousands of copies, buying 1,000 copies a day for its first three months of publication. The book helped teachers and students “rethink” their teaching about the so-called discovery of the Americas. Likewise, the first chapter in Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, on Columbus’s exploitation of the Native peoples, is the mostly widely read and discussed section of the book. (Zinn often joked that maybe it was the only chapter people read.)

Bigelow concluded his If We Knew Our History article: “We don’t have to wait for the federal government to transform Columbus Day into something more decent. Just as the climate justice movement is doing with fossil fuels, we can organize our communities and our schools to divest from Columbus. And that would be something to celebrate.”

The Zinn Education Project will continue to help build this movement.