But not everyone is embracing the change. Last May, the borough council of Glen Rock, New Jersey, voted unanimously not to replace Columbus Day, a contentious issue in a district where many residents are of Italian American heritage.
“It’s not appropriate to destroy the commemoration of an ethnic people such as Italian Americans who have done so much for this country,” says Andre’ DiMino, communications director of the Italian American One Voice Coalition. “We cannot give in to this revisionist history to destroy this day.”
A proposal to scrap Columbus Day in Montana—which has a higher proportion of Native Americans than most other states—failed in a state Senate committee last April after it passed the state House of Representatives.
“Columbus was one of the most influential people in modern history,” says John Fuller, a Republican from Kalispell, Montana, who voted against the bill. He adds that “Columbus’s enormous contributions, good and bad, need to be remembered.”
Some cities and states are looking for a middle ground. In 2017, Nevada passed a bill to celebrate indigenous people on a different day, August 9, and last spring, Oklahoma merged Columbus Day with Native American Day, now both designated for the second Monday in October.
Some experts think the political battles over Columbus can serve an important function if they lead to honest discussions about how we choose to interpret our shared history.
“If you do it in the right way, it’s a tremendously healthy process,” says Charles Mann, a Columbus historian. “We learn more about our societies and more about ourselves as our societies develop and as we develop.”