Paterson, NJ, schools eliminate Columbus Day
A town that once boasted one of the biggest Italian-American populations in New Jersey has eliminated Columbus Day as a school holiday.
The Paterson School Board has voted to replace Columbus Day with Italian Heritage Day/Indigenous People’s Day, to be celebrated on the second Monday in October. NorthJersey.com reported the resolution approved by the board stated: “Columbus’ arrival in the Americas caused harm to the territory’s indigenous populations, making the annual celebration of this event controversial.”
Board members said they did want to acknowledge that "Columbus’ Italian heritage has great meaning to many Italian Americans,” so they included "Italian Heritage Day" to avoid offending anyone.
This issue of recognizing and/or celebrating Columbus has been a thorny one across the U.S. and in New Jersey. There was such backlash in Randolph Township when the school district removed Columbus Day from the school calendar, they renamed all designations and listed holiday's as "Day Off." That caused even more backlash, and they put Columbus Day back on the calendar.
Columbus statues have also come down in a handful of New Jersey cities, most notably in Trenton. The landmark statue had stood at the entrance of a park in the heart of a largely Italian-American neighborhood for more than 60 years. As the statue came down, Mayor Reed Gusciora said, "What we know about Columbus simply makes his image a poor fit for a city that is as diverse as Trenton."
Newark removed a Columbus statue in June, 2020, and plans to replace it with a statue of legendary abolitionist Harriett Tubman next year. Regarding Columbus, when the statue was removed, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said it was a "statement against the barbarism, enslavement, and oppression that this explorer represents.”
Columbus statues have also been removed from Camden and West Orange.