1st Term Columbus Controversy Project – Celebrate his Contributions or Not?
This project entails creating a research booklet in which you display 4 articles (including your own summary,
analysis/commentary, and source information pertaining to each article.)
Following guidelines about how to search for information that you will receive during history class visits to the
library (October 15), you will select your four articles by searching through various social science databases,
on-line journals, newspapers, and the Internet. The articles you choose must pertain to the controversy
surrounding the celebration of Columbus Day and the celebration of Columbus as an historical figure in
general. In particular, you will find lots of controversy surrounding the celebrations that were planned for the
1992 Quincentenary of Columbus’ arrival in the Americas. Clearly some people think Columbus should be
celebrated--for his valuable contributions to history, and others feel that he should not be celebrated—also
because of what he contributed (but, instead in a negative way.) You should choose articles that clearly take a
position on the issue one way or the other. For each article that you select, be sure that you are able to clearly
identify what opinion the person writing the article has about whether Columbus should be celebrated or not.
Do not choose articles that merely give information about Columbus. Do not choose news accounts in which it
is difficult for you to discern the opinion of the writer on the issue. You must print out each article you choose
and include the copy of the article in your booklet. Make sure you are able to provide source information for
Writing about the Articles—3 Parts: Summary, Analysis/Interpretation, Source
1. Summary: For each article you choose you will write a brief summary of the article. Your summary
should be at least two good solid paragraphs long. You must show in your summary that you understand
the main claims in the article. Make sure to include some specific examples from the article that support
the overview you are providing. Can someone who reads your summary get the gist of what the person
who wrote the article is saying about the Columbus controversy?
2. Analysis/Interpretation: For each article you will also write a brief analysis (also approximately two
solid paragraphs) in which you analyze and interpret the opinion about the Columbus controversy that
the author of the article expressed. Make sure you understand this part. You are writing about your
opinion of their opinion!! Be sure that you do not fall into re-stating your summary. This is not where
you tell me what the article says. (It’s also not a good place to tell me what a good or bad writer the
author of the article was—I don’t particularly care. What you should do in your analysis section is
critique the argument made in the article. Tell me why it was or wasn’t persuasive to you. Did it
convince you to agree with the author’s arguments or not? Why or why not? Be very careful to give
specific examples of things you did or didn’t agree with from the article and explain why you agreed or
why you did not agree with the author. (Hint, it’s fine to draw on your prior knowledge—things you
already know about Columbus—things you learned from the Zinn piece, for example—so that you
might end up saying something like: ―I was not persuaded by the author’s claims that Columbus really
didn’t do extreme harm, because in the Las Casas entry in the Zinn piece it states blah, blah, blah.‖)
3. Source Information: For each article you must provide detailed source information including proper
citations (see your handout on format for citations). Tell me about the website where you found the
article, or what sort of group sponsors the website (for instance you might say something like this:
―This article comes from a website sponsored by the American Indian Movement. AIM is an
organization that was founded in blah, blah, blah. The article is by two of the group’s co-founders, who
were writing in response to the Quincentenary celebrations.
4. Conclusion: Write a one-page conclusion in the style of a journal entry that discusses your thoughts on
three things: First, address the point that the Michael Kammen article makes about Columbus (as we
discussed it in class- 10/9—check your notes!) You will recall that the article said that faced with the
founding fathers’ reluctance to be undemocratically idealized, the figure of Columbus eventually filled
the void. Columbus became elevated to hero status by romanticized histories about what he had
accomplished. These glorified portrayals, written long after Columbus’ time, were more a reflection of
the young nations’ efforts at that time to forge a sense of national identity, than they were about
Columbus himself, or his actual deeds. More than 100 years later, as public perceptions of Columbus
shifted towards greater cynicism, and the outright disapproval surrounding the Quincentenary
celebrations, Kammen reminded us again that such sentiments reflected as least as much about our
present times as they did about Columbus himself. Be mindful of these shifts as you write your
conclusion. In what ways are we still re-making Columbus based on our own particular biases and
location in time? Are there any ways in which we can be careful enough to satisfactorily account for our
biases and still leave room to make some valid claims about the actual figure of Columbus? Spend a
few paragraphs discussing your thoughts on Kammen’s ideas. Second, spend a few more paragraphs
discussing the opposing arguments of Kirpatrick Sale and Robert Royal (also presented in class- 10/20-
see your notes) considering whether or not Columbus was an imperialist. What do you conclude
regarding that question and why? Third, share whatever final thoughts you have, now that you have
finished the project. What was most interesting, hardest, most gratifying, etc.?
5. Organizational Details:
a. Make a nice cover for your booklet and give it a title that sums up the issue.
b. Put you materials in the following order: Summary, Analysis, Source, and Article 1, 2, 3, or 4.
Repeat 4X followed by your Conclusion.
c. Label each piece that you include: ―Summary,‖ ―Analysis,‖ ―Source,‖ ―Article 1, 2, 3 or 4,‖ and
d. Type all information (except the articles, which you will print out.)
e. Include nice neat Tabs that clearly indicate where Article 1, 2, 3, and 4 are.
6. Due Dates: 10/15 – Library Visit – Intro to resources
10/16 - (Computer Lab Day)
10/17 – 1st Article with Sum/Analysis/Source - due in class
10/20 – 2nd & 3rd Article with Sum/Analysis/Source - due in class
10/21 – (Computer Lab Day) - 4th Article with Sum/Analysis/Source - due in class
10/22 – Conclusion and assembled final project - due in class