James Loewen battles over the Christopher Columbus legacy

Historians in the News

James Loewen said Christopher Columbus discovered America the way the speaker discovered oregano.

The historian and author of the book, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, came to the Stamp Student Union yesterday for a different sort of Columbus Day celebration. His lecture, titled “Columbus Didn’t Discover Us,” revolved around what Loewen sees as lies and misinformation ingrained in U.S. history textbooks. The event echoed sentiments of one side of an ongoing debate over the legacy of Christopher Columbus.

“We do talk about Native Americans in our American history textbooks, and we start out by making them look bad,” Loewen said to an audience of students in the Grand Ballroom.

Loewen’s lecture centered on what he called “the nadir of race relations” — a period he said was between 1890 and 1940, when “racism as an ideology went to its highest level in American society” and when he said many of the historical inaccuracies concerning Columbus and the Native Americans originated.

Loewen said arguments of race inferiority were used as justification for systematically killing Native Americans. One textbook he cited referred to the Native Americans who first journeyed to the continent as “wanderers.” But Loewen pointed out that Columbus, who is remembered for his accidental discovery of the Americas, was never referred to in such a way.

The same textbook, he said, accused Native Americans of not knowing they were exploring a “large land mass.”

“A Labrador retriever would know it was exploring a large land mass,” he said.
Though the event was intended to spark debate, most attendees were already devotees of Loewen’s school of thought.

“We all know that Columbus wasn’t the person the textbooks build him up to be, and I think it’s up to us to kind of learn more about the history of America — the true history of America,” freshman environmental science and policy major Jesse Rabinowitz said.
Read entire article at Diamondback Online: The University of Maryland's Independent Daily Student Newsletter

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