Type: History
Pages: 6 | Words: 1549
Reading Time: 7 Minutes


Christopher Columbus has been the subject of many biographies for a long time now. There was a time when Christopher Columbus’ achievement was celebrated widely. Many songwriters, statesmen and poets used to refer to the U.S. as ‘Columbia’ which was a Latin version of the explorer that the District of Columbia became the seat of the government. He was seen as the symbol of Italian achievement. But Christopher Columbus has a complicated legacy that continues to be divisive. But to others, Christopher Columbus is demonized especially for detention of hundreds of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. This essay will focus on the life of Christopher Columbus and his impact and its interpretation by historians. We will also discuss the voyager’s life career and his activities in the U.S. during those times.

Christopher Columbus biography

Christopher Columbus was born in the Italian city of Genoa in May 1451. His father was a weaver and one day he took the little boy to the shores of the sea where he used to sell his wares. Columbus was thrilled by what he saw. He was later to participate in several trading voyages as a teenager in the Mediterranean Sea.  He completed the voyages that across the Atlantic Ocean that brought awareness of the American continent to the Europeans. It is through these voyages that the Spanish colonization was established on and later brought about European colonization.

Columbus earlier voyages were in the Mediterranean Sea where most of his countrymen frequented. In 13 august 1476, Columbus was given an opportunity by the Genoa commercial expedition to sail into the Atlantic Ocean. This was to be the beginning of his expeditions. In around 1481, he sailed to what is now Ghana and was impressed by the riches he saw. His voyages experiences led him to his plan of planning to reach the east by going west; the enterprise of the Indies. The great view to him at this time was to find out a passage by sea to the West Indies (Christopher Columbus Biography).

Christopher Columbus was on a voyage on the 12th October 1492 when he accidentally discovered America although he was on a voyage to discover a route from Europe to Asia. He had four other different voyages to the Caribbean from 1492 to 1504 and was convinced that he had discovered the lands that Marco Polo had discovered earlier in his voyages to China. After the discovery, Columbus was convinced that it was a matter of time before a passage was found connecting the Caribbean Islands to the Asian cities (Christopher Columbus Biography).

Although not the first European to reach the American continent, a Scandinavian Vikings was there earlier in the late 10th or 11th century, Columbus explorations had a great effect on the world. Through his explorations, there was a direct opening of the western hemisphere to European colonization. This is what also led to, in large scale, the exchange of plants, cultures, animals and ideas between two different worlds. The explorations also led to deaths of millions of indigenous Americans from introduction of new diseases, forced labor and war that claimed a large percentage of lives (Christopher Columbus Biography).

Christopher Columbus heroism and hope

The second Monday of every October is celebrated in American and is called as Columbus Day. This is a celebration of the man who is credited to have discovered America. Schools all over the country teach about Columbus as a great national hero.

No one wanted to test the Atlantic Sea but Columbus although with trouble finding a crew to venture across the Atlantic, scraped 90 men and set out.  When they passed an erupting volcano for example, the sailors were terrified thinking the billowing smoke was an evil omen but Columbus calmed them and explained the cause of the smoke. When winds blew pushing them further west, the screw cast dark crowds against Columbus. The crew met thick seaweed on their way, and the men feared that it would entangle their rudders. The crew only saw birds in the air and nothing more. The crew sulked and sullen saw mutiny. They decided to throw the admiral into the sea and force the pilot to turn round back to Spain. But Columbus was not willing and he urged them on. Then on October 12, 1492 was the day that dawn raised a new world from the wells (Bennett and Cribb, Pg.13).

Columbus is regarded as the person who accurately brought America into the forefront of western attention. Columbus achievement is widely celebrated in Europe and America. Songwriters, statesmen, poets and other groups have referred to America as ‘Columbia’ which was a Latin word for Columbus the explorer. Even the District of Columbia was made the government’s seat.  Renowned Joaquin Miller’s poem ‘Sail on! Sail on! Sail on!’ was a resolute for generation of schoolchildren in which Columbus ordered his mates to continue sailing (Bennett and Cribb, Pg.13).

Image of Columbus as a villain

Like Columbus the hero that we have seen above, Columbus the villain is also the same character with some complaints. Although it is true that he discovered America, Christopher Columbus was a murderer who erased the original natives inhabiting the land. With his men, they destroyed people, culture and land. These are not heroic deeds, or are they? This was a man who was never respectful of the people he met in his voyages. He is said to have described the native Indians as attractive unclothed people, this was like saying that nakedness was lack of respect, culture and religion to him. He considered the natives as a defenseless people who he could make slaves. His letters show arrogance while possessing their islands (DeWitt, Whitney).  

In recent times though, Columbus heroism has fallen out of favor with some people.  A magazine that does surveys, The Smithsonian, reported that in its survey of the famous people in American history, Columbus was missing. This is because in some quarters Columbus is seen as the reason for the terrible invasion by Europeans for the New World. According to the survey, it is Columbus arrival that conquest, slavery and death came to be known (Bennett and Cribb, Pg.13).

This is true. Columbus legacy has a lot of tragedy. This includes slavery of some American Indians, cause for spread of some diseases that caused deaths and reducing populations as a result. Before Columbus’ time in American history, slavery was unheard of and was just but a pervasive life fact. With him he also brought such diseases as small pox and other diseases whose consequences the new world did not anticipate. Americans knew little about diseases but were greatly affected by what Columbus and his men had brought with them. To the Americans, it made no sense to be indicted for failing to meet science standards and that of human rights (Bennett and Cribb, Pg.13).

Columbus most celebrated part was the voyage itself. According to historians it was the most momentous voyage in modern history. But therein lies Columbus’s problem that has dogged him since then, when historians take this triumph out, then they view the American history through negative prism with little space left for celebrating Columbus heroics voyage across the Atlantic (Bennett and Cribb, Pg.13).

In a dueling event at Boston recently, after the explorer was embraced as a symbol of achievement for Italy, he was demonized in a later event that afternoon outside Suffolk county house in Roxbury. Hundreds of students demonstrated and protested the detention of undocumented immigrants in the county blaming Columbus for all that.  The protestors had a different opinion about Columbus much celebrated image. They retorted at being told to honor a man they claim represents the worst kind of humanity. According to one of the organizers Alex Papali, they were doing the right thing by standing 500 years of mind control. This statement meant that they have been made to believe that Columbus was a good man who opened America to the European continent.  The detainees also called attention to the unusual cruel punishments that has now become part of the immigrant enforcement policies (MacQuarrie, Brian pg.3).  


Christopher Columbus is a great Italian voyager credited to discovering America. He is seen as a hero whose day is celebrated yearly on the second of every October. Columbus achievement is widely celebrated in Europe and America. He is credited to have brought America to the western civilization. America was about to be named Columbus but many the capita, many streets and rivers are named after this great man. And for that schools all over the country teach about Columbus heroic deeds. But on the other side of this hero is a story that is exactly the opposite of these great deeds.

Apart from discovering America, Columbus is accused by all manner of things. He is accused of bringing with him diseases that reduced the American population greatly. It was through him that great wars were fought especially due to his arrogance. He is thus seen as a murderer who not only destroyed people but also a culture. He is accused of being a great human rights abuser. Some historians sum up all these and claim that Columbus was no way a hero, but a destroyer of the entire population.   

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