This letter was composed by an affiliate organization, Italian American Human Relations Foundation of Chicago Board member, Anthony Rago, in response to a Facebook posting by one Amy Bizzarri, an educator, who seems to be bogged down in the revisionist history regarding the Columbus Legacy. We are proud of the educated and well written response to an obviously misinformed teacher. Lou Rago
"Hi Amy, We have a mutual friend on Facebook and your post yesterday was brought to my attention. Seeing that you are a writer and teacher, I would expect you to do more research before regurgitating the typical negative talking points regarding Christopher Columbus. I had a problem with your entire second paragraph - these statements are presented as facts when they have all been debunked by numerous scholars (look up: Carol Delaney and Mary Grabar). Doing a simple Google search can bring you to the actual translated version of Columbus' journals. I encourage you to read through it - but make sure you are reading his actual journals on americanjourneys.org, because other websites (and Howard Zinn's "Peoples History of The United States) take bits and pieces of his entries out of context and interpret them to fit their agenda. Again, all of your statements were false - I encourage you to take the time to read through your errors:
You hint that Columbus was sizing up the natives and commenting that they would make great servants - hence furthering the narrative that his sole intention was to enslave the people he encountered. However, if you actually read his journal entry regarding this observation, it reads: "They are all of fair stature and size, with good faces, and well made. I saw some with marks of wounds on their bodies, and I made signs to ask what it was, and they gave me to understand that people from adjacent islands came with the intention of seizing them, and that they defended themselves. I believed, and still believe, that they come here from the mainland to take them prisoners. They should be good servants and intelligent, for I observed that they quickly took in what was said to them..." (from americanjourneys.org: "Journal of the First Voyage" page 111). He is simply making an observation of why he believes other islanders are attacking them with the intention of enslaving them.
There are countless entries in his journal where his specific orders to his men are that none of the natives are to be harmed, and anything the natives give to the sailors are to be paid for. He immediately set out to establish a good relationship with the natives.
You stated that Columbus took 5000 natives back to Europe to enslave them. This is my favorite. I have read other "scholars" state that he had taken as few as 500 and as many as 3000-6000. Quite the discrepancy. Ships he sailed on at the time held as many as 60 people. In order to transport 5000 natives to Europe, he would have had to make almost 100 trips - he made FOUR. In fact, he took SIX natives back to Spain on his first return voyage. He immediately baptized them Christian. Why? Because by 1493, Slavery had existed throughout the world for 15 centuries. But in Europe, if you were baptized, you were not allowed to be enslaved.
You allude to him being involved in sex trafficking of underage girls. In fact, he observed this practice being committed by Spanish Settlers on one of his return voyages, so he DID really write of it in his journals. However, the next sentence of his entry is always ignored where he laments the fate of the natives under the hands of the settlers. This always caused him great despair.
The above treatment he witnessed, among others committed by settlers, was the reason he was "sent back to Spain in chains as a criminal". The crime was Treason. He went against his own men and ordered two of them to be hung. Translation: he was actually arrested for defending the natives. Yet today, he is criticized for the mistreatment of them.
And finally, you state that he transported the first African slaves to the New World in 1505. No he didn't. Not even remotely close to being true. The first documented transatlantic slave voyage from Africa occurred in 1526 to what is currently Brazil. Columbus made his last voyage to the New World in 1502, returning to Spain in 1504. By 1505, when you have him transporting slaves, his health was failing. Columbus died in May of 1506 having never owned a slave throughout his entire life.
I hope you keep these facts in mind before posting anything to social media regarding Christopher Columbus. You should probably rethink your affiliation with the Italian American Heritage Society. Your credibility and intentions are called into question when you are pushing the narrative of a revisionist like Howard Zinn. He was a card carrying member of the Communist Party in the 60s and 70s. His goals in presenting this fictional representation of history was to overthrow the U.S. Government, rip up the Constitution and start over. What are yours? Thank you for your time. Anthony Rago Italian American Human Relations Foundation of Chicago"
IAHRF is an affiliate organization of the JCCIA.