As Americans learned the gruesome details of the massacre at Wounded Knee, President Benjamin Harrison declared Columbus Day a holiday in 1892 to maintain national unity. Professor of History at Seton Hall University, William J. Connell defends the much-maligned day of observance.
The idea, lost on present-day critics of the holiday, was that this would be a national holiday that would be special for recognizing both Native Americans, who were here before Columbus, and the many immigrants–including Italians–who were just then coming to this country in astounding numbers. It was to be a national holiday that was not about the Founding Fathers or the Civil War, but about the rest of American history.
What Columbus Day Really Means