Today is Columbus Day!
And in recognition of the occasion, here is an excerpt
from the novel Annie John
by Jamaica Kincaid, Caribbean novelist (b 1949)
Twelve year old Annie writes of her history class at the Anglican School on the Island of Antigua:
"I was no longer on the same chapter we were studying. I was way ahead, at the end of the chapter about Columbus's third voyage. In this chapter, there was a picture of Columbus that took up a whole page, and it was in color -- one of only five color pictures in the book. In this picture, Columbus was seated in the bottom of a ship. . . .
His hands and feet were bound up in chains, and he was sitting there staring off into space, looking quite dejected and miserable. The picture had as a title 'Columbus in Chains,' printed at the bottom of the page. What had happened was that the usually quarrelsome Columbus had got into a disagreement with people who were even more quarrelsome . . .
What just deserts, I thought, for I did not like Columbus. How I loved this picture -- to see the usually triumphant Columbus, brought so low . . . I wrote underneath it the words 'The Great Man Can No Longer Just Get Up and Go' [a phrase little Annie has recently heard her mother utter about Annie's aged grandfather]. I had written this out with my fountain pen, and in Old English lettering -- a script I had recently mastered. . . .
Now here Miss Edward [the teacher] stood . . . It was bad enough that I had defaced my schoolbook by writing in it. That I should write under the picture of Columbus 'The Great Man . . . ' etc. was just too much. I had gone too far this time, defaming one of the great men in history, Christopher Columbus, discoverer of the island that was my home. And now look at me. I was not even hanging my head in remorse. Had my peers ever seen anyone so arrogant, so blasphemous?" (from Chapter Five, pp 72 - 82)