Education

Christopher Columbus: The Absurd Things Kids Used to Be Taught About History

Buy your 5-year-old a book about Christopher Columbus published in the last decade and you’ll find yourself pausing to explain both “mutiny’’ and “slavery’’.

But as anyone old enough to remember what it’s like to rewind a VHS tape knows, it wasn’t always that way.

The Cruise of Mr. Christopher Columbus: A Really Truly Story, by Sadyebeth & Anson Lowitz, was first published in 1932, and remained popular for decades.

According to a 1932 review syndicated in newspapers across the country: “For children who love to be read to and for children just learning to read, there are probably no better books than the “Really Truly Stories’’ of Sadyebeth & Anson Lowitz.’’ The book was said to make “history human, understandable and absorbing to inquisitive youngsters and its amusing illustrations and pertinent text is sure to entertain parents almost as much as their youthful audience.’’

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Co-authored by a husband and wife, the “Really Truly Stories’’ series had sales exceeding a million copies by the late 1960s.

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As late as 1973, critics were still raving about The Cruise of Mr. Christopher Columbus, then priced at $1, calling it a “fresh, charming retelling for children of the life and voyages of Columbus.’’ (Forty years fresh, anyway.) The tenth and final edition was published by Dell in 1977. According to Worldcat, copies of the book are maintained at libraries around the country, though it’s unclear if any of these copies are in circulation.

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I mean, yes, Columbus was born years and years before anyone lived in “your town’’ if you eliminate the Native Americans, who almost definitely lived in “your town.’’ Oh and also, it’s not “your town.’’ Keep that in mind, as the idea that one can possess a geographic area is relevant.

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The “Indians’’ lived in what looked just like beehives. Except, you know, bigger and not full of bees.

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“Chug! Chug! Chug!’’ was likely misinterpreted by Columbus and his men to mean something along the lines of: “Enslave us, and give us your diseases!’’

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“Invited’’ appears to have been a term used in earlier decades to mean “the forcible removal of indigenous people from their homes to be made into slaves.’’

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These Native American slaves were so thrilled to come to Europe that they danced.

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And that’s why we continue to celebrate this holiday, named after the “brave’’ and wonderful Christopher Columbus, who discovered a land that was previously unknown and also totally uninhabited. You know, mostly.

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Happy Columbus Day.

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