When I first came across this website, one of the first activities I read was People vs. Columbus, et al. and I immediately began preparations to use it in my world history classes. After providing background information from A People’s History and various primary sources, we set the trial up.
My students’ reactions after the trial concludes can easily be described as unsettled. Never before had they heard of the crimes committed against the indigenous peoples of the “new world.” Never before did they realize the impact Europeans had on the indigenous peoples of the western hemisphere.
I have a writing assignment attached to this activity. In two paragraphs, I ask that they tell me who they think is to blame for the crimes. I also ask if they think we should still celebrate Columbus Day.
Afterward, we take a look at our textbook. We look at the one paragraph devoted to Columbus in which it describes his ability to persuade Queen Isabella in 1492. That’s it. That’s all it says. Thanks to the Zinn Education Project, my students have a better understanding of the impact left by him and other Europeans. Now, they know more than just the year he sailed and the color of the ocean.