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Columbus: True face of the status quo – NY Times editorial 1989


Slavery and Colonialism Make Up the True Legacy of Columbus
Published: November 4, 1989

To the Editor:

I expected that ”The Real Columbus Day, at Last” (editorial, Oct. 12) would explore, however briefly, the real meaning of Christopher Columbus’s accidental encounter with America. Instead, you presented a startlingly ethnocentric view of that encounter’s consequences. To say that Columbus ”forged a lasting link between the civilization of Europe and the largely undeveloped continents of North and South America” suggests that Columbus found mostly empty lands inhabited by a relatively few uncivilized peoples.

To Americans of European descent, this is a comfortable picture, but it diminishes the impact of his tragic legacy on the native peoples of the Americas and Africa. Most school history texts do not tell that Columbus was the first European to bring slavery to the New World.

Two days after he ”discovered” America, Columbus wrote in his journal that with 50 men he could force ”the entire population be taken to Castile, or held captive.” On his second voyage, in December 1494, Columbus captured 1,500 Tainos on the island of Hispaniola and herded them to Isabela, where 550 of ”the best males and females” were forced aboard ships bound for the slave markets of Seville.

Under Columbus’s leadership, the Spanish attacked the Taino, sparing neither men, women nor children. Warfare, forced labor, starvation and disease reduced Hispaniola’s Taino population (estimated at one million to two million in 1492) to extinction within 30 years.

Until the European discovery of America, there was only a relatively small slave trade between Africa and Europe. Needing labor to replace the rapidly declining Taino, the Spanish introduced African slaves to Hispaniola in 1502; by 1510, the trade was important to the Caribbean economy.

If we move from a Eurocentric view of Columbus, we can understand the passions that the 500th anniversary in 1992 arouse. In 1986 in Spain, Basque separatists murdered Adm. Cristobal Colon, a descendant of the discoverer. When the Duvalier regime was overthrown in Haiti, demonstrators, descended from African slaves, tossed the great statue of Columbus into the bay. Attempts in the United Nations to pass resolutions celebrating the anniversary of the ”discovery” have been defeated, largely by protests from third world countries that view Columbus not as a discoverer, but as an invader.

For many Americans and Europeans, Columbus’s legacy is a benign one of ”discovery” and progress, celebrated by holidays, parades and white sales. For others throughout the world, his legacy is colonialism, slavery and the destruction of people and cultures.
–BRYAN STRONG Santa Cruz, Calif., Oct. 16, 1989 The writer is a University of California visiting lecturer in psychology.

Gabled Turn-of-the-Century Flemish Revival Styled Firehouse – FDNY Squad 252 – Bushwick, Brooklyn –

© Frank H. Jump


The Dutch settled the town of Bushwick in 1660. The original Dutch name for the area was Boswijck meaning “heavy woods”. The town of Bushwick was annexed by the City of Brooklyn in 1854. The German influx to the north added eleven operating breweries between 1850 to 1880. Southern Bushwick remained a farming community until the mid 1880’s. In 1889, the construction of an elevated railway from Manhattan fostered tremendous population growth to Bushwick. As the southern area developed, the need for additional fire companies became evident. Brooklyn organized eighteen new fire companies in 1896 including Engine 52.

On December 20, 1895, the BFD purchased a 25×100 foot plot for Engine 52’s firehouse from Mary L. Mintonge and William Van Voorhees for $2,400. The Parfitt Brothers, a leading Brooklyn architectural firm, was commissioned to design the new firehouse in early 1896. On May 20, 1896, the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper reported fierce competition among contractors bidding the job due to the architectural design. The new firehouse would be three stories, designed in a Flemish Revival style that would feature a prominently scrolled front gable and a roof top garden. The front façade would consist of brick and red sandstone from Lake Superior, detailed with a carved terra-cotta lintel and fluted iron pilasters. The ground floor contained sufficient room for the apparatus – consisting of a steam engine and hose carriage or “tender”. Stalls for four horses were located behind the tender. The second floor contained officer’s quarters to the front and the firemen’s dormitory to the rear. One of the newer designs incorporated into Engine 52’s house was a hose tower that facilitated drying fire hoses. Leonard Brothers was the winning contractor who built the firehouse for $16,947. Today the firehouse remains much the same as it was over 100 years ago.  


In March of 1995, FDNY took over the EMS Division of the Health and Hospital Corporation. All firemen were trained as CFR-D technicians. On October 19, 1995, the Landmarks Preservation Commission of the City of New York designated Engine Company 252 a Landmark and the firehouse at 617 Central Avenue as its Landmark Site. The following excerpt was extracted from the official record:

“On the basis of careful consideration of the history, the architecture, and other features of this building, the Landmarks Preservation Commission finds that Engine Company 252 has a special character and a special historical and aesthetic interest and value as part of the development, heritage, and cultural characteristics of New York City.”

“The Commission further finds that, among its important qualities, Engine Company 252 is significant as one of the most distinguished firehouses in New York City; that it is an important building reflecting the expansion of civic architecture in the independent City of Brooklyn in the late nineteenth century; that as a major work by Parfitt Brothers, one of Brooklyn’s finest architectural firms, it is an important architectural monument in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn; that as an example of Flemish Revival style architecture, it illustrates the popularity of this mode of colonial design in the New York City area with its heritage as a Dutch colonial settlement; and that it is a well-maintained civic building that continues to be used for its original purpose.”

Engine 252 is the only landmark firehouse in continuous use since its inception 100 years earlier.


On July 1, 1998, Engine 252 was reorganized as Squad 252 and assigned to the Special Operations Command of the FDNY. – FDNY Squad 252 History

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Pictorial History – 75th Anniversary Issue – October 22, 1916

Brooklyn Daily Eagle Pictorial History 1916 – Google Books (CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE)

(OR Before everything got screwed up) Brooklyn Daily Eagle – Google Books (CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE)

Brooklyn Daily Eagle Pictorial History – Google Books (CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE)

Brooklyn Daily Eagle Pictorial History – Google Books (CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE)

Use of Vintage Style Signage in Film – Gandhi (1982) – Sir Richard Attenborough (29 August 1923 – 24 August 2014)

Pietermaritzburg Train Station

Screenshot from the Academy Award winning film Gandhi (1982) by Sir Richard Attenborough

Pietermaritzburg is also famous for an incident early in the life of Mahatma Gandhi. On 7 June 1893, while Gandhi was on his way to Pretoria, a white man objected to Gandhi’s presence in a first-class carriage, and he was ordered to move to the van compartment at the end of the train. Gandhi, who had a first-class ticket, refused, and was thrown off the train at Pietermaritzburg. Shivering through the winter night in the waiting room of the station, Gandhi made the momentous decision to stay on in South Africa and fight the racial discrimination against Indians there. Out of that struggle emerged his unique version of nonviolent resistance,Satyagraha. Today, a bronze statue of Gandhi stands in Church Street, in the city centre. – Wikipedia

The centennial commemorative statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the center of downtown Pietermaritzburg, South Africa – Photo taken by Elefuntboy 2014


Screenshot from the Academy Award winning film Gandhi (1982) by Sir Richard Attenborough

Screenshot from the Academy Award winning film Gandhi (1982) by Sir Richard Attenborough

Screenshot from the Academy Award winning film Gandhi (1982) by Sir Richard Attenborough

Mohandas Gandhi, centre, surrounded by workers in his law office in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1902. (Courtesy of the Guardian UK – Photograph: AP

Wemmer Mining Company

Screenshot from the Academy Award winning film Gandhi (1982) by Sir Richard Attenborough

Screenshot from the Academy Award winning film Gandhi (1982) by Sir Richard Attenborough

Screenshot from the Academy Award winning film Gandhi (1982) by Sir Richard Attenborough

Mohandas K. Gandhi is arrested as he leads a march of Indian miners in South Africa

Date: 6 November, 1913

On his journey to South Africa in 1893, Mohandas Gandhi had first -hand experience of the discrimination faced by people of colour. His response to this was the establishment of the Natal Indian Congress (NIC) in 1894. Within three years of his arrival in South Africa, Gandhi had become a political leader, providing hope to many Indians who had no political rights under the dispensation of the time. In 1903, he founded a newspaper, the Indian Opinion, in which his ideas on passive resistance or Satyagraha were spread. Some years later, an act was introduced in which all Indians in the Transvaal were required to carry a pass. Under Gandhi’s leadership, 3000 Indians protested against the law by refusing to register for their passes. This became known as the 1906 Satyagraha Campaign.

By 1913, a tax had been imposed on all former indentured labourers, known as the Indian Relief Bill. In protest of this, Gandhi launched a passive resistance campaign, gaining the support of thousands of mine workers. While leading a march on 6 November 1913, which included 127 women, 57 children and 2037 men, Gandhi was arrested. He was released on bail, rejoined the march and was re-arrested. The Indian Relief Bill was finally scrapped.

Gandhi returned to India, and through his consistent passive opposition to British rule, led his country to independence. His philosophy on passive resistance was drawn on significantly during the fight against apartheid. The Defiance Campaign in 1952 can be seen as an example of this. – South African History Online

Martin Nicholson’s collection of South African goldmines on postcards. CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE [www.martin-nicholson.info/postcardarchive/goldmining/goldmining.htm]

Google Books

Facial casts of Nias islanders, J.P. Kleiweg de Zwaan, 1910 – A Post-Colonial Simulacrum – Dutch History Exhibit – Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam – Gaia Son

© Gaia Son

© Gaia Son

Why do these men look so unhappy and violated?

After 1900, the colonial-military expansion of power in the Dutch East Indies opened it up as an unparalleled area of activity for Europeans. This also applied to the Dutch anthropologist J.P. Kleiweg de Zwaan, who conducted research on the physical characteristics of ethnic groups. During a 1910 expedition on Nias he covered the faces of a group of living men with plaster to record their appearance. Numbered casts of these plaster moulds were made in the Netherlands. – Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Lowlands Correspondent: Gaia Son – Pakhuismeesteren – Celebes, Borneo, Java, Sumatra – Kop de Zuid, Rotterdam NL

Rotterdam – Kop van Zuid, at Wilhelminakade-Statendam, October 2012 © Gaia Son

CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE – Reskewed with Photoshop – © Gaia Son

© Gaia Son

Pakhuismeesteren (warehouse supervisors) is a former business and warehouse in the harbor area of Rotterdam in the south of centrum district called Kop van Zuid or South Bank. This post-colonial relic, on which the Indonesian islands of Celebes, Borneo, Java, Sumatra are written, stands on the Wilhelmina Pier for only about 70 years. Research has shown that a prior building with a wooden pile foundation once stood here from 1898 and burned down in 1937. This abandoned non-landmarked pre-WWII structure dates from about 1940 and is currently being renovated to feature a multi-purpose first floor with rented shops and offices, a catering hall, and  24 units of residential living spaces.¹

The now defunct Pakhuismeesteren business was established in 1818 after the 1800 dissolution of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) which after an almost two-century reign of colonial plunder, fell into ruins by way of corruption and mismanagement. Originally the “Pakhuismeester of Tea,” the company took on the interests of the Rotterdam VOC’s tea and spice trade. After three and a half centuries of Dutch colonialism, Indonesia declared its independence in 1945 which was finally recognized by the Netherlands in 1949. Rotterdam was the busiest world port since the early sixties until being surpassed by Shanghai in 2004.


De Boompjes or trees in front of the East India House which stood on the north bank of the , circa 1700, print van Petrus Schenk, Atlas van Stolk Boompjes, Rotterdam , from “Atlas van Stolk”, ca. 1700 – Wikipedia

Dear Columbus – A Letter from a First Grade Elementary School Class

Dear Columbus-

We are sorry that you are dead and we are writing you a little note. Please, Columbus be nice because other people don’t want to be slaves. Please do not hurt other people because they can’t find gold for you.  Also, share the gold and the spices you have stolen with poor people. Cutting off people’s hands who can’t find you gold isn’t a nice thing to do. We are peacebuilders.

We wish you would have been nice. The stories about you don’t tell the truth. Please say you are sorry.


First Grade Class

Children need to be taught the truth about Columbus’ blood-and-gold-thirsty voyages and their impact on the indigenous people of the Western Hemisphere and the people on the African continent.

Black Peter in Post-Colonial Flanders & France – Zwarte Piet – Brussels & Antwerpen, Belgium

Shop window in Brussels © Frank H. Jump

© Frank H. Jump

Bar on Grote Markt in Brussels © Frank H. Jump

 Could not help being reminded of lynching © Frank H. Jump

Restaurant sign in Antwerpen © Frank H. Jump

Gallery window in Brussels © Frank H. Jump

For the West, the Black man is a savage.

Along the Seine across Notre Dame (Rive Gauche) at an art kiosk © Frank H. Jump

Josephine Baker – Le Tumulte Noir – CLICK

Other Internet resources:

  • Zwarte Piet – Wikipedia
  • Zwarte Piet Blog – links and references about the Zwarte Piet tradition
  • Post-Colonial Theory (PDF)- Childs, Peter. Williams, Patrick. An Introduction to Postcolonial. Theory  unthinkingly conceded that the black man is the colour of evil.

What is NY400? – Island @ the Center of the World Opening – South Street Seaport


Dit is Nieuw York - This is New York - NY400 Holland On The Hudson - NYC400

© Frank H. Jump

© Frank H. Jump

© Frank H. Jump

Prince of Orange & Princess Máxima of the Netherlands © Frank H. Jump

Paula, Willy Broekveldt Jump & Frank H. Jump © Frank H. Jump

Paula, Willy Broekveldt Jump & Frank H. Jump © Frank H. Jump

Willy overlooking Fulton Street & Seaport © Frank H. Jump

Willy overlooking Fulton Street & Seaport © Frank H. Jump

400 Years Later, and Still Proud of New Amsterdam – NY Times

“It’s bigger there [the Netherlands] than over here [NYC],” said Babette Bullens, 38, who lives near Holland’s border with Belgium and was making her first trip to New York. “If you talk to New Yorkers, they don’t know what’s happening. It’s very disappointing,” she said in Battery Park on Sunday. – New York Times

In spite of the disappointment of some Dutch tourists who made New York City their destination for this long-awaited cultural event, I’m not surprised most New Yorkers have been totally unaware of the hoopla over the 400 year anniversary of Henry Hudson sailing up the “West River” in search of the Northwest Passage for the Dutch. Those of us who watch public television, read the New York Times, or have an interest in the myriad of events that occur here in the “capital of the world” on a regular basis, will know why there were four-hundred year-old replicas of the Half Moon (Halve Maen) sailing in the New York Harbor- and Dutch tourists flocking all over Lower Manhattan.

Unfortunately, the masses are either too busy in their hurried lives to eke out a living or are just uninformed. I’m sure the majority of the uninformed can tell you who was recently booted from American Idol or whether or not President Obama’s original birth certificate has been located. These are the important issues that concern most uninformed Americans. History? Well that was written by the conquerors – IN ENGLISH!

But do strike up a conversation with a Dutch tourist about how the Dutch West India Company fueled the slave trade, or how the Dutch were the only colonials who “bought” their land from the Indians, or how the future Queen of Holland’s father Jorge Zorreguieta may be guilty of war crimes [other resource], and I’m sure you will get an earful.