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The American History Podcast

A Program Of Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

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History Behind The Headlines

Recently, Charlottesville City Council voted to rename “Columbus Day,” the second Monday of October, “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.” The resolution, introduced by Councilor Wes Bellamy, says that Charlottesville “shall continue its efforts to promote the well-being and growth of the Charlottesville American Indian and Indigenous community. Indigenous Peoples’ Day shall be used to reflect upon the ongoing struggles of Indigenous people on this land, and to celebrate the thriving culture and value that Indigenous nations add to our city.”

Charlottesville’s motion follows other states and cities across the country, from Vermont to Los Angeles, that have chosen to use the day to celebrate Indigenous communities and peoples, rather than the Italian explorer, whose 1492 arrival ushered in the colonization of the Americas and the genocide of millions of Indigenous peoples.

However, the name change is not without its critics. An Akron City Council proposal to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Akron, Ohio was recently defeated by opponents who claim that Columbus Day honors the achievements of Italian-Americans.

Calls to rename Columbus Day come in the wake of a bitter, often violent, debate throughout the U.S. over the memorialization of notable slave-owners such as Thomas Jefferson and significant conflicts including the Civil War.

In 2014, BackStory looked into the history behind the memorialization of Christopher Columbus. For more, check out this episode: “1492: Columbus in American Memory.”

About History Behind The Headlines: When breaking news and history collide, BackStory brings the context. This new blog feature takes trending news items and, whenever possible, offers BackStory host commentary or segments from previous episodes that provide a historical viewpoint.