Letter to All Members of the Italian American Congressional Delegation

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October 1, 2017

Dear member of the Italian American Congressional Delegation,

The over 50 signatories to this letter represent a cross section of a much larger constituency of Italian American writers and scholars of Italian and Italian American Studies who are concerned about the contentious historical legacy of Christopher Columbus. We are writing to you as a member of the Italian American Congressional Delegation, urging you to support our efforts to repeal the federal status of Columbus Day.

Over the past two decades, new historical evidence about Christopher Columbus and his legacy have revealed that for centuries the citizens of this United States have celebrated a myth that has suppressed the history of indigenous people and brought them great suffering, especially via the federal commemoration of Columbus Day.[1] We recognize today that the image of Columbus the “discoverer” and “adventurer,” pales vis-à-vis the evidence of Columbus’ cruel administration as first Viceroy of the West Indies, and of the legacy of colonialism, and eventually genocide, set in motion by the system of forced labor he imposed on the inhabitants of Hispaniola. And we also recognize that the commemoration of the myth of “Columbus’ discovery” has served political agendas having nothing to do with Italians or Italian Americans. Yet, it is undeniable that since its first celebration by Italian immigrants in 1866 New York, the date of Columbus’ landfall (October 12), and the figure of Columbus, have slowly become associated exclusively with the Italian American community in the eyes of all Americans. In fact, since 1907, leaders of this community have played a key role in lobbying, first for state recognition, and then, in 1937, for federal declaration of October 12 as “Columbus Day.”[2]

In view of this special relation between Italian Americans and the establishment of Columbus Day, we invite you and all members of the Italian American Congressional Delegation to rise to the occasion and lead us towards new practices of memory inspired by the values of humanism and cultural dialogue we recognize as part of an Italian identity. Specifically, we ask you to initiate a process of consultation with members of the Congressional Native American Caucus that would lead to a widely supported bill for the abolition (and/or replacement) of Columbus Day as a Federal Holiday.

Sincerely,

  1. Penny Arcade (AKA Susana Ventura), Performance Artist and playwright
  2. Cristina Bacchilega, Professor of English & Graduate Program Director, University of Hawai‘i-Mānoa
  3. Marcella Bencivenni, Associate Professor of History, Hostos Community College, City University of New York
  4. Teri Ann Bengiveno, Professor History, Las Positas College
  5. Silvia Bizio, Journalist
  6. Norma Bouchard, Dean, College of Arts and Letters, San Diego State University
  7. Giovanna S. Capone, Author and Public Librarian, Alameda County Library, California
  8. Nancy Caronia, Teaching Assistant Professor, West VirginIa University
  9. Nancy C. Carnevale, Associate Professor of History, Montclair State University
  10. Christopher Castellani, Author, Boston
  11. Joanna Clapps Herman, Manhattanville College, MFA Program
  12. Clarissa Clò, Professor of Italian and European Studies, Chair of the European Studies
  13. Antonino D’Ambrosio, Filmmaker/Author
  14. Roberto M. Dainotto, Professor of Romance Studies Professor of Literature, Duke University
  15. George de Stefano, Writer and independent scholar, Long Island City, NY
  16. Luisa Del Giudice, Independent Scholar, Emerita Founder-Director Italian Oral History Institute
  17. Loredana Di Martino, Professor of Italian University of San Diego
  18. Lawrence DiStasi, Author, Independent scholar, and Curator of the Italian American Studies Association, Western Regional Chapter
  19. Evelyn Ferraro, Lecturer of Italian Studies, Santa Clara University
  20. Claudio Fogu, Associate Professor of Italian, University of California, Santa Barbara
  21. Donna Gabaccia, Professor of History, University of Toronto
  22. John Gennari, Department of English and U.S. Ethnic Studies Program, University of Vermont
  23. Edvige Giunta, Professor of English, New Jersey City University
  24. Karen Guancione, Artist
  25. Jennifer Guglielmo, Associate Professor of History, Smith College
  26. Thomas A. Guglielmo, Associate Professor of American Studies, George Washington University
  27. Thomas Harrison, Chair of Italian Department, of California, Los Angeles
  28. Camillla Hawthorne, Department of Geography, UC Berkeley
  29. Stehanie Jed, Professor of Literature, UC San Diego
  30. Annie Rachelle Lanzillotto, Writer
  31. Sabina Magliocco, Emerita, Chair of Anthropology, California State University, Northridge
  32. Tommi Avicolli Mecca, writer, musician and longtime LGBT and housing rights activist
  33. Peter Menchini, Maya Media, San Francisco
  34. Giuliana Milanese, Jobs with Justice
  35. Robert A. Orsi, Professor of Religious Studies and History, Northwestern University
  36. Robin Pickering-Iazzi, Chair of the Department of French, Italian, and Comparative Literature, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  37. Stanislao Pugliese, Professor of History, Queensboro Unico Distinguished Professor of Italian and Italian American Studies, Hofstra University
  38. Roseanne Giannini Quinn, Departments of English and Women’s Studies, De Anza College
  39. Laura E. Ruberto, Department of Arts and Cultural Studies, Berkeley City College
  40. JoAnne Ruvoli, Assistant Professor of English, Ball State University
  41. Peter Savastano, Associate Professor of the Anthropology or Religion, Consciousness Sexuality and Gender, Seton Hall University
  42. Joan Saverino, Independent Scholar
  43. Annabella Sciorra, Actress
  44. Joseph Sciorra, John D. Calandra Italian American Institute, Queens College, City University of New York
  45. Dana Spiotta, fiction writer, Associate Professor, Syracuse University
  46. Circe Sturm, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin
  47. Geoffrey Symcox, Emeritus Professor of History, Univ. of California, Los Angeles
  48. James Tracy, Labor and Community Studies, City College of San Francisco
  49. Adriana Trigiani, author and filmmaker, New York City, New York
  50. Edward F. Tuttle, Professor of Italian and Linguistics, of California, Los Angeles
  51. Pasquale Verdicchio, Director of Italian Studies, University of California, San Diego
  52. Anna Lomax Chairetakis Wood, Association for Cultural Equity at Hunter College, New York

[1] We respectfully ask you to consider the commentary and analysis, “Columbus, ‘The Man,’ Columbus, ‘The Day’, available on our blog.

[2] Since 1968 the Federal Holiday has been celebrated on the second Monday of every October.

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