How the War on Christopher Columbus Began with the KKK

Leftists take up the long, dormant campaign to smash statues of the celebrated explorer

By opposing monuments to Christopher Columbus, the radical Left is continuing a campaign that began with the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s.

“It’s an interesting story, and it’s little-known and certainly not much appreciated in this day and age,” Patrick Korten, director of the National Christopher Columbus Association, told LifeZette.

The KKK of the 1920s, he explained, was not really a southern organization, and its bigoted belief system wasn’t focused only on black Americans.

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“They still hated African-Americans, to be sure,” Korten said, “but it was expanded.”

The Klan particularly hated Catholics and Jews, he noted.

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“It was as much an anti-Catholic thing in the 1920s as it was anti-black,” said Korten.

One of the most striking examples of this was in 1928, when the governor of New York, Al Smith, the first Catholic to win a major-party nomination for president of the United States, traveled by train through the country to campaign and was met by burning crosses.

The Klan hated Columbus for the same reason it hated Smith: It considered both to be symbols of a foreign power, and a threat to Protestant dominance of American life.

The KKK did whatever it could to oppose statues commemorating Columbus and to prevent the celebration of Columbus Day.

In 1924, according to historical accounts, the Ku Klux Klan interrupted a Columbus Day celebration in a mining town in Pennsylvania with a burning cross.

That same year, the KKK newspaper, the American Standard, published an article decrying the naming of Columbus Day, smearing Columbus as a “cruel papist,” and writing that Columbus had tried to steal from Leif Erikson the title of discoverer of the New World.

In Richmond, Virginia, in 1927, the Klan tried to block the erection of a statue of Columbus that was sponsored by an Italian group, complaining that Columbus was a foreigner and a Catholic. The Klan was initially successful, as a city committee rejected the statue, though that decision was overturned and the statue was dedicated later that year.

In Oregon in the 1920s, Klan-supported politicians tried to eliminate Columbus Day as a state holiday.

The violent Left has taken up the mantle — taken up a sledgehammer, actually, to violently attack the oldest statue of Christopher Columbus in the U.S., the 225-year-old monument in Baltimore.

The perpetrator posted the video of the attack online, and the next day it was revealed that the tablet at the base of the obelisk on which the inscription was written had been smashed.

Two white poster-board signs had been laid at the foot of the monument, one reading, “Tear it Down,” and the other reading, “The future is racial and economic justice.”

Police vowed to find the perpetrator and bring charges against him.

In New York City, liberal Democrat Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that the question of whether to remove the magnificent statue of Christopher Columbus in Columbus Circle, at the southwest end of Central Park in the middle of Manhattan, is under a 90-day review. And it does not look good.

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“It’s ironic that this should happen in a city filled with Italian and Hispanic immigrants,” said Korten. “There’s absolutely no excuse for trying to throw it in the same pile as statues to Robert E. Lee that were erected in the 1920s.”

The statues of Columbus, said Korten, are a great tribute to the tremendous courage the explorer showed in setting out across an uncharted ocean and to the extraordinary meeting of the two worlds — old and new — that Columbus brought about.

(photo credit, article image: C64-92, Flickr)

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