On October 12, 1492, after more than two months at sea, a crew member on Christopher Columbus’s ship the Pinta gave the cry that land was in sight. Columbus, his three ships, and his relieved crew landed on an island in the Caribbean.
Columbus, who was Italian, had set out to find a western trade route to Asia for the Spanish king and queen. He believed he had found that route. He thought he was in the Indies, as eastern Asia was called by Europeans of the time. What he had actually found were a land and peoples that Europeans knew nothing about. This “New World” and the lives of its native peoples would change drastically in the years after Columbus’s voyages, as the Europeans rushed to claim, conquer, and colonize the lands in search of gold and other riches.
Columbus Day began with Italian Americans who wanted to celebrate Columbus’s achievement. President Franklin Roosevelt declared it a national holiday in 1937. Originally celebrated on October 12, Columbus Day has been observed on the second Monday in October since 1971. Traditional Columbus Day celebrations include parades and public festivities. In recent years, however, the holiday has become a forum for discussing the conquest of the Native Americans by Europeans in the years following Columbus’s voyages. Some people believe the holiday should be changed to commemorate the Native Americans who suffered and died as a result of the Europeans’ arrival.
- The Library of Congress: Columbus Day
Visit the Library of Congress’s online exhibit on Christopher Columbus and his voyage to the New World in 1492. Learn what the world was like before Columbus’ voyage, and how his discovery affected the lives of Native American, European, and African peoples.
- The History of Columbus Day
Learn about Columbus’s voyages through a wealth of resources on this interactive History.com Web site. Watch videos about Columbus and the holiday that celebrates his achievement, and take a quiz on your knowledge of Columbus.
- TheHolidayZone.com: Columbus Day
Discover the history of Columbus Day and celebrate it with activities, puzzles, and discussion with this educational site. Includes links to other Columbus Day resources on the Internet.