I still haven’t seen an explanation why the Columbus statue in Chester was tarped. The Daily Times and Philadelphia Inquirer got ‘no response’ when they asked. There’s a lot of things we can assume as to the reason but it would be nice to hear it from the tarpers.
The guest column in today’s Delaware County Daily Times offers a perspective from an Italian man not thrilled with Columbus’ representation of his ethnicity while citing a historical perspective from a black Chesterite, Brent Staples, who happens to be a Pulitzer Prize winning writer for the New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/10/12/opinion/columbus-day-italian-american-racism.html
The Daily Times guest columnist, Richard DiFeliciantonio, remarks about the testy situation with the Philly Columbus statue and asked ‘whose history’ are the guardians of the statue defending when it’s documented Columbus cut off peoples’ ears, noses and tongues, and paraded naked women in the streets before selling them into slavery. He writes, ‘As an Italian American, I don’t want a man I’d be ashamed to introduce to my father representing me,’ and asks, ‘Why would Americans parade a man of such violent legacy, who never even stepped foot on the land of what is today’s United States?’
Then, he refers to an October 2019 New York Times article by Chester native Brent Staples who provides an explanation of how Columbus Day came to be.
In the fall of 1890 the New Orleans police chief was assassinated. It is critical to the story to understand first that in 1890 Louisiana dark-skinned southern Italians endured the penalties of blackness. Welcomed to Louisiana as cheap labor after the Civil War, often living side by side with freed slaves, many Italians were shut out of schools, theaters and labor unions, and consigned to church pews set aside for blacks.
Italian immigrants were described in the popular press, including the New York Times, as criminals, bandits, brutes, verminous, and “links in the descending chain of evolution” often slurred by the same epithets reserved for blacks.
The police chief’s murder resulted in bogus charges against 19 Italians, but the evidence was so scant that one by one they were acquitted or set free due to mistrials. It was then a white mob took matters into its own hands and lynched 11 of the innocent Italian men.
The lynchings brought an outraged Italian government to the brink of war with the United States. So in 1892, as part of a diplomatic effort to lower the temperature, President Benjamin Harrison called on Congress to protect foreign nationals and proclaimed the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher’s three celebrated ships as Columbus Day, intended as a one-time national celebration.
Thus began the deification of Columbus and the process of integrating Italian Americans into the broader American Story.
It wasn’t until 1934 that President Roosevelt proclaimed the observance of an annual Columbus Day.
It wasn’t until 32 years later that Mariano Lucca, a congressman from Buffalo, N.Y., founded the National Columbus Day Committee that led to the establishment of Columbus Day as a national holiday.
So, nothing Columbus himself actually did warrants his position atop Italian-American mythology. Rather, devotion to him is due to a series of relatively recent events in which he was included by happenstance.
During the Town Hall Meeting hosted by attorney Enrique Latoison a couple weeks ago in Chester, the Prospect Park police chief mentioned Chester City government tarped the Columbus statue to prevent people from outside the city from defacing it. I didn’t get a chance to ask where he got that information but that’s the only explanation I’ve heard, so I’m going with it until I hear otherwise.