Proverbs 14:15 MSG
Columbus Day was first celebrated in San Francisco in 1869 to celebrate Italian American heritage. The idea spread across the country with the first statewide celebration in Colorado in 1907. By 1937 it was so widely celebrated that it was made a national holiday. But why?
Some believe that the minor holiday was popularized as a response to the New Orleans lynching of 11 Italian Americans in 1891.
Originally, 19 Italian Americans were indicted for the murder of police chief David Hennessy. After six of them were acquitted at trial on April 14, 1891, a mob stormed the jail, removed 11 of the inmates and hanged them in the public streets, the largest, single mass lynching in American history. Over the next 9 years, another 9 Italian Americans were lynched in New Orleans.
No one was ever brought to trial for any of the lynchings.
Some historians believe that after the New York Times and other national newspapers ran the stories and indignant editorials about the lynchings, a movement to honor Italian American heritage pushed to make Columbus Day a holiday and the idea caught on.
Yet another lesson we didn't learn in History class.
Dean Feldmeyer is the author of 5 novels, 4 non-fiction books, three plays, and over 100 essays, articles, poems, and short stories, some of which can be found on this web site.