I was looking for something different to post for this Columbus Day and while searching, I came across a number of “interesting” views of Columbus. For many, including myself, we look at Christopher Columbus as someone who exploited and dehumanized indigenous populations for his personal benefit and is credited with, although technically he did not, discovering America. However, not everyone has chosen to look at Columbus in as negative or serious manner.
Ink Spots – “Christopher Columbus” (written by Andy Razaf and Leon Brown “Chu” Berry)
According to this source, the song is suppose to be a joke. By the way, the robot picture in the video above is from Fallout 3; the Ink Spots was on the soundtrack for the game.
Listen to Fats Waller (his version is the silliest) and Maxine Sullivan versions.
Poets Phyllis Wheatley and Paul Laurence Dunbar strangely took inspiration from Columbus in their poems. According to Frank J. Cavaioli’s essay , these two poets translate the figure of Columbus into a god-like figure of Columbia, another term for America. Below is Dunbar’s poem, “Columbian Ode:”
Four hundred years ago a tangled waste
Lay sleeping on the west Atlantic’s side;
Their devious ways the Old World’s millions traced
Content, and loved, and labored, dared and died,
While students still believed the charts they conned,
And revelled in their thriftless ignorance,
Nor dreamed of other lands that lay beyond
Old Ocean’s dense, indefinite expanse.
But deep within her heart old Nature knew
That she had once arrayed, at Earth’s behest,
Another offspring, fine and fair to view,—
The chosen suckling of the mother’s breast.
The child was wrapped in vestments soft and fine,
Each fold a work of Nature’s matchless art;
The mother looked on it with love divine,
And strained the loved one closely to her heart.
And there it lay, and with the warmth grew strong
And hearty, by the salt sea breezes fanned,
Till Time with mellowing touches passed along,
And changed the infant to a mighty land.
But men knew naught of this, till there arose
That mighty mariner, the Genoese,
Who dared to try, in spite of fears and foes,
The unknown fortunes of unsounded seas.
O noblest of Italia’s sons, thy bark
Went not alone into that shrouding night!
O dauntless darer of the rayless dark,
The world sailed with thee to eternal light!
The deer–haunts that with game were crowded then
To–day are tilled and cultivated lands;
The schoolhouse tow’rs where Bruin had his den,
And where the wigwam stood the chapel stands;
The place that nurtured men of savage mien
Now teems with men of Nature’s noblest types;
Where moved the forest–foliage banner green,
Now flutters in the breeze the stars and stripes!
How about Nikki Giovanni, who references Columbus in her poem “A Substitute For You,” and in her commencement speech at the University of the District of Columbia, when she states how she is inspired by Columbus’ desire to “sail on:”
“I’m a big fan of Christopher Columbus,” Giovanni said. “I know that people have problems with Columbus, but I don’t. Columbus would rather have fallen off the Earth than to have turned around. He said, ‘I might not get to where I’m going, but I’m not going back to where I’ve been.’ And we applaud him for that. Christopher Columbus sailed on.
“And it really was sort of like Martin. When he sailed on to Montgomery and they won the bus boycott, everybody said, ‘Now you’re going back, aren’t you, and preach that same old gospel that you’ve been preaching and nothing will have changed other than Black people can get on the bus?’ And Martin said, ‘No, I think I’ll sail on.’ ”
Um…Okay Giovanni. I think you are leaving some important things out. But,it is fascinating the different reactions to Columbus that exist, even from people I did not expect.