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History vs. Christopher Columbus - Alex Gendler

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Many people in the United States and Latin America have grown up celebrating the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s voyage. But was he an intrepid explorer who brought two worlds together or a ruthless exploiter who brought colonialism and slavery? And did he even discover America at all? Alex Gendler puts Columbus on the stand in History vs. Christopher Columbus.

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TED-Ed Original lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed original? Nominate yourself here »

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  • Educator Alex Gendler
  • Animator Brett Underhill
  • Narrator Addison Anderson

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Additional Resources for you to Explore
Columbus sailed the ocean blue in fourteen hundred and ninety two with the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. While this part of history may be true, there is always more to the story. Have you ever wondered about the validity of a history lesson? Many people have pondered why Columbus Day is a federal holiday and have asked, why DO we celebrate Columbus Day when Columbus actually landed in the Bahamas?” Who actually did discover America, who lived In America, how were they impacted by this “invasion,” and who was the first European to actually land on this continent? Watch this History Channel video and find out about this controversy and get some answers to your questions. Why do Native Americans protest the arrival of Europeans to America and feel offended by our celebration of Columbus? Read more at the same History Channel site and find out. Has this changed your opinion about why we celebrate this holiday?

Should we rethink why we celebrate Columbus Day? How would Italian people feel? How about Native Americans, or the indigenous people of Latin and South America? As you peruse the listed sites, think about all the sides in this story, gather information and make an argument for each! Check out this NPR article about Columbus Day and learn which state renamed it as Discoverer’s Day or Native Americans Day. Has the truth been overlooked for too long?

The Queen of Spain was so enamored by what Columbus told her about the New World’s wealth and riches that she sent him back for more. What role did she have in causing wars and slavery? How did Columbus treat the indigenous people he and his men encountered? Read more about this story at this site. Think about how you would have felt if you had been taken as a slave to another country, and watched those around you die and suffer. What adjectives would you use to describe Columbus or the Queen of Spain now?

Columbus Day is celebrated differently across the United States. In fact, only 23 states give workers the day off with pay.
What does your state do? How would you feel if things were changed? Would this change be justified according to what you have learned? How can you put a plan into action to try to make a change? Check out this Pew Research Center site and get some background information. Contact your local representative, send a letter or an email voicing your opinion. Think about what you would choose as the new name for the Columbus Day holiday.

Dia de la Raza means “Day of the Race” in many countries in Latin America. It is a way to raise awareness of the resistance against the arrival of the first Europeans to the Americas. What does the phrase, ”Day of the Race’” mean to you after what you have viewed on the TED-Ed Lesson and at the different websites presented? Has your awareness been changed? Can people from history be judged by the values of society today? Should changes be made and past misconceptions addressed? How would you start?

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About TED-Ed Originals

TED-Ed Original lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed original? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Alex Gendler
  • Animator Brett Underhill
  • Narrator Addison Anderson

Share

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