Answer Sheet: How is Columbus Day still a thing in US today?

Portrait of a Man, Said to be Christopher Columbus, by Sebastiano del Piombo. Image from The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Searching for some answers to the question -- why do some Americans still celebrate Columbus Day?
John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” show on HBO did a segment on Columbus Day that asked this seemingly reasonable question about the federal U.S. holiday: “How is this still a thing?”

How indeed?

The first Columbus Day celebration recorded in the United States was held in New York in 1792. On Oct. 12 — the day in 1492 that Columbus and his ships made landfall not in Asia, as the explorer believed, but on an island in the Caribbean Sea. In 1892, according to, President Benjamin Harrison issued a proclamation encouraging Americans to mark the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage with patriotic festivities.” In 1937, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Congress, bowing to lobbying by the Knights of Columbus, an influential Catholic group that wanted a Catholic hero to be honored, proclaimed Oct. 12 to be Columbus Day, a national holiday. In 1971, the holiday date was changed to the second Monday in October

Kids in school have long been taught an incorrect and sanitized version of Columbus and his “discovery of America.” As historians have long noted (and as Oliver’s video explains) Columbus didn’t discover America. He never even set foot on the continent on his first voyage in 1492 or any of the three subsequent trips to the “New World” (in 1493, 1498 and 1502). Besides, there were already indigenous people living on the island where he landed, as well as on the nearby the continent.
Get the Story:
Answer Sheet: Columbus Day: ‘How is this still a thing?’ (The Washington Post 10/8)

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