Loyola University Chicago

Language Learning Resource Center

The History of Columbus Day

What are the origins of Columbus Day celebrations in the U.S.? Where and when was a holiday to honor Columbus as an American "founding father" first proposed? How did the holiday develop over time from local events to national and eventual federal holiday status? What role has the holiday played in the Italian American community?

Interviewees – William Connell, Professor and La Motta Chair, Department of History, Seton Hall University; Bénédicte Deschamps, Associate Professor, Université de Paris, author of “Italian-Americans and Columbus Day: A Quest for Consensus between National and Group Identities, 1840-1910,” chapter in the anthology Celebrating Ethnicity and Nation: American Festive Culture from the Revolution to the Early 20th Century (2001)

Photo of William Connell –

William Connell Audio


William Connell, Professor of History and La Motta Chair in Italian Studies at Seton Hall University, studies a wide range of problems in Italian and Italian American History. His many publications include studies of Columbus, Renaissance Humanism, Machiavelli, and anti-Italian discrimination in the United States, and he co-edited the Routledge History of Italian Americans.  He is currently an Andrew Carnegie Fellow.

Photo of Benedicte Deschamps -

Benedicte Deschaps Audio

Bénédicte Deschamps is associate professor at the Université de Paris (France) where she teaches US history, US Immigration History and Italian-American studies. She is a member of the Centre National pour la Recherche Scientifique (LARCA UMR 8225) and her research focuses on the history of Italian immigration in the United States from the Risorgimento to WWII, the US ethnic press, and the diplomatic relationships between Italy and the US.. Her book on the history of the Italian-American press (Histoire de la presse italo-américaine du Risorgimento à la Grande Guerre) was just released. Her new project deals with the history of Italian political exiles in the XIXth Century. For more details about her publications : https://cnrs-bellevue.academia.edu/B%C3%A9n%C3%A9dicteDeschamps