Did you see the good news out of Seattle this past week? First the school board, then the city council, voted to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. It’s a sign that more and more people want to learn—and teach—the truth about our history.
These actions follow on the heels of the spirited protests in Jefferson County, Colorado, where a right wing majority on the school board sought to ensure that curriculum materialsRead more »
By Bill Bigelow
This past January, almost exactly 20 years after its publication, Tucson schools banned the book I co-edited with Bob Peterson, Rethinking Columbus. It was one of a number of books adopted by Tucson’s celebrated Mexican American Studies program—a program long targeted by conservative Arizona politicians.
The school district sought to crush the Mexican American Studies program; our book itself was not the target, it just got caught in the crushing. Nonetheless, Tucson’s—and Arizona’s—attack on Mexican American Studies and Rethinking Columbus shares a common root: the attempt to silence stories that unsettle today’s unequal power arrangements.Read more »
By Bill Bigelow
Recently, I ran across an old manual that described itself as “An easy step-by-step guide to obtain U.S. Citizenship.” A page of history and government questions begins:
Q: Who discovered America?
A: Christopher Columbus in 1492.
This was the simple, and simplistic, history that I learned in 4th grade in the early 1960s growing up in California—a kind of secular Book of Genesis: In the beginning, there was Columbus; he was good and so are we.
And it stayed the history that most everyone learned until the Columbus quincentenary in 1992 brought together Native Americans, social justice organizations, and educators to demand a more inclusive and critical version of what occurred in 1492 and after.Read more »
One of the most popular teaching activities on the Zinn Education Project website is The People vs. Columbus, et al. which challenges student to critically examine the motivations for and impact of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in Hispaniola.Read more »
Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow. 6 pages.
How to engage students in a critical analysis of the textbook version of “discovery.”
Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow. 8 pages.
Role play in the form of a trial to determine who is responsible for the death of millions of Taínos on the island of Hispaniola in the late 15th century. Roles available in Spanish.
Teaching Activity. By Gayle Olson-Raymer. 15 pages.
Questions and teaching ideas for Chapter 1 of Voices of a People’s History of the United States on Columbus’ arrival in the “New World,” and the contrasting accounts of Bartolome de Las Casas and Eduardo Galeano.
Book – Non-fiction. By Susan Gage. 1991. 51 pages.
Graphic/comic book tackles history of colonialism in the Americas.
Teaching Guide. Edited by Gioconda Belli, et al. 1992. 104 pages.
Bilingual collection of short stories, essays, poetry, folktales, and songs on conquest and resistance from Latin America and the Caribbean.
Teaching Guide. Edited by Bill Bigelow and Bob Peterson. 2003. 192 pages.
Readings and lessons for grades 5 to 12 about the impact and legacy of the arrival of Columbus in the Americas. Published by Rethinking Schools.
Book – Non-fiction. By Charles C. Mann. 2009. 128 pages.
An illustrated book for young readers based on 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus.
Book – Non-fiction. By Hans Koning. Afterword by Bill Bigelow. 1976. 141 pages.
A biography for all ages that gives a true account of Columbus’ life and voyages.
Book – Non-fiction. By Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. 2015. 312 pages.
Four hundred years of Native American history from a bottom-up perspective.
Book – Non-fiction. By Eduardo Galeano. 1997. 360 pages.
Gripping history of the land and people of Latin America.
Books – Non-fiction. By Howard Zinn. 2005, with a new introduction by Anthony Arnove in 2015. 784 pages.
Howard Zinn’s groundbreaking work on U.S. history. This book details lives and facts rarely included in textbooks—an indispensable teacher and student resource.
Book – Fiction. By Margarita Engle. 2011. 160 pages.
Historical fiction in the form of poetry about the conquest and resistance.
Profile. By William Loren Katz.
Hatuey was a freedom fighter in the early 1500s who mobilized Caribbean islanders against invasion, theft, and murder by European conquistadors.
Film. Written, directed, and produced by Nick Kaufman. 1991. 23 minutes.
Contrasting views and scenes from the classroom on teaching about Columbus.
Film. Directed by Icíar Bollaín and written by Paul Laverty. 2010. 103 minutes.
As a crew shoots a film about Columbus’ genocide, local people in Cochabamba, Bolivia rise up against plans to privatize the water supply.
Film clip. Voices of a People’s History.
Dramatic reading of Bartolome de las Casas’ “Devastation of the Indies: A Brief Account” (1542) by John Sayles, Viggo Mortensen, and Staceyann Chin.
Poster and booklet. By James W. Loewen. 2006; updated 2014. 64 pages.
Graphic corrective to the traditional textbook narratives about Columbus.
Slideshow on DVD. 1977, updated in 2008. Rethinking Schools and the Council on Interracial Books for Children.
Native American history through the eyes of Native American children.