NewsLocal News


Controversy surrounding Columbus Day

Posted at 10:42 PM, Oct 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-13 11:28:05-04

CAPE CORAL, Fla — Most people have Columbus Day off.

But the man behind the holiday is coming into question once again.

This comes as groups across the country continue to push for the holiday to be renamed in honor of the indigenous people that Christopher Columbus enslaved.

We all know the saying in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

But in 2020, his legacy is being called into question over and over.

Florida Gulf Coast University Professor Jeff Fortney says in the 15th century, the Italian born Christopher Columbus set off to discover a faster route between Europe and Asia.

He eventually lands in the Caribbean and begins to build settlements.

"The part that's left off from there is he's also credited with sparking the transatlantic slave trade and sparking a genocide of indigenous peoples," Fortney says.

Fortney also says even in his own day, Columbus was known as a brutal man.

"Mass hangings, mass executions, it got the point where there were mass suicides by indigenous peoples," Fortney says.

He further explains that under this backdrop, we see the current push for Columbus Day to be renamed in honor of Indigenous people who suffered at his hands.

"We can address somebody like Columbus," Fortney says.

"Nobody is saying that we need to go through the history books with whiteout and take out Columbus's name."

At a state level, the only push to change controversial holidays that FOX 4 could find was failed Senate Bill 244.

State senator Lauren Book proposed it in 2017.

It didn't address Columbus Day, but it did hope to stop the birthdays of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis and confederate Memorial Day from being recognized as legal holidays.

As far as Columbus Day is concerned, Fortney says he's cautiously optimistic that it will eventually be addressed at a state level one day.

"I think as a society if we're going to say we do in fact value indigenous people that is one place where we look and say 'Maybe it's time to make this change," Fortney says.

FOX 4 also reached out to that state senator and the local ACLU chapter in Southwest Florida to see if they're getting request to have the holiday changed here in the sunshine state.