Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 18, 2020 / 23:00 pm
A Catholic high school in Wisconsin will not change its name from “Columbus Catholic High School” after a petition from alumni and other members of the community requested the change. But with Columbus statues coming down in cities across the country, one expert says the explorer has been mischaracterized.
The Wisconsin petition, which was started by three recent graduates of the high school, demands that the name of the school be changed and that a statue of Christopher Columbus be removed from the front of the school.
The petition charged that Columbus “acted in deeply racist ways,” mistreated and enslaved indigenous people, and “represents racism and hatred.”
But David Eaton, the president of Columbus Catholic Schools, explained in a letter several reasons why the schools would not be changing their name. Eaton’s letter was initially published on a Facebook page for alumni of the school, and was subsequently re-published in local media.
Columbus Catholic Schools includes two schools--Columbus Catholic High School and Columbus Catholic Middle School--both named after Christopher Columbus.
The reason the schools were named, Eaton explained, was not out of blind admiration for the 15th-century Italian explorer. Rather, it was done to honor the people who funded the construction of the school — local Knights of Columbus.
“Like all histories, the history of Columbus Catholic Schools is long and somewhat complicated,” Eaton began his letter. He explained that in 1882, the first Catholic church in the town of Marshfield, Wisconsin was completed, with the city’s first Catholic school coming six years later.
In 1915, the Knights of Columbus chartered a council in the town, and the area’s Catholic population grew until it became clear there was a need for a new high school.