5 Americans Who Deserve a Holiday More Than Columbus

Christopher Columbus may have his own federal holiday, but it’s barely a secret at this point that he was actually a hateful jerk. Learning about the man’s real history sure puts a damper on any festivities you may want to have every second Monday of October.

Surely, there are countless people more deserving of a national holiday in America than Columbus. Here are five famous – and much more respectable – figures that we could be proud to swap in for Christopher and commemorate annually instead:

1. Albert Einstein

One of the great scientific minds to ever live deserves proper recognition. A holiday for the man would not only commemorate Einstein himself, but the process of intellectual inquiry and discovery.

Granted, Einstein is German born, but he became an American citizen in 1940, exemplifying the immigrant experience on which this country was founded. Although much better known for his scientific contributions, his civil rights activism makes him an admirable person in other respects, as well.

2. Eleanor Roosevelt

If there’s a holiday to honor the Presidents of the United States, it only seems fair to give a nod to one of the hardest working First Ladies, as well. Roosevelt refused to be a standard shrinking violet while in the White House, openly advocating for the rights of women, African Americans and Asian Americans at a time such talk was scandalous. She wasn’t afraid to disagree with her husband on a few issues, either.

Even after her husband died, Roosevelt stayed committed to public service by advocating for and subsequently representing the United Nations with the goal of improving human rights worldwide. She is a true example of someone who used her influence for good.

3. Cesar Chavez

Arguably the country’s most influential labor activist, Chavez fought tirelessly — yet non-violently — to establish the union that would go on to become the United Farm Workers. His work not only validated the value of organized labor in this country, but also empowered the nation’s Latino community to stand up for their rights.

Texas, California and Colorado already each have state holidays to commemorate Chavez’s life, but his contributions are worthy of federal recognition. Particularly in an age where labor forces are unjustly vilified, his legacy is critical for Americans to remember.

4. Rosa Parks

Parks’s strong convictions helped demonstrate the power of civil disobedience on that fateful day in 1955 when she refused to give up her seat on the bus. Her defiance set off a crusade against institutionalized segregation in America and forever changed the course of history for the better.

Though her life is already honored with minor holidays in the states of California and Ohio, a proper federal holiday for Parks would remind citizens that the Civil Rights Movement was not accomplished singlehandedly by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but through the actions of countless courageous people – including women.

5. Mark Twain

Political figures aren’t the only people worthy of distinction, so how about honoring one of the greatest American writers? Twain’s famous, prolific works are invaluable to our culture and are still taught in schools nearly a century and a half later.

Moreover, Twain helped to shape the way Americans looked at our world. His serious novels like Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and satirical essays about the day’s current events challenged the way Americans think, proving the influence that literature can wield.


Now it’s your turn: which individuals throughout history would you like to see recognized with a holiday?

Top photo: stevebkennedy, Chavez photo by Joel Levine, others available through national archives' public domain

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Fred L.
Fred L.about a year ago

Ask any Native American or Native Hawaiian what they think of Discovers' Day, and their responses will be much like most of the comments posted here. It's good to know that most Care2 readers don't buy into the bullshit revisionist history that was taught in our educational system.

Kat K.
Kat K.about a year ago

Christopher Columbus did not even discover America~~the Native Americans were already here. How about a Native American holiday???

Fi T.
Fi T.about a year ago

Never mix or mess up work with life

M.N. J.
M.N. J.about a year ago

These are fine suggestions, with my heart leaning toward Mark Twain.

Other nominations to occupy the Columbus spot might include:
Skennenrahawi, aka The Great Peacemaker
Chief Joseph
Harriet Tubman
Susan B. Anthony
Benjamin Franklin
Howard Zinn
Harvey Milk
Paul Robeson
Helen Keller
Nikola Tesla
Studs Terkel
Chief Tecumseh
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Sojourner Truth
Frederick Douglass
Eugene Debs
Woody Guthrie
W.E.B. DuBois
Jane Addams
Lucretia Mott
Malcolm X
Jesse Owens
Johnny Appleseed

As I read through the comments I found many of my admittedly haphazard list had already been mentioned.

I like Roxane C.'s suggestion of changing Columbus Day to DISCOVER AMERICA DAY.

Angela P.
Angie P.about a year ago

All great people who made a difference in the US.

Jordan G.
Jordan G.about a year ago

I have long pushed for a Great Americans Day to replace several holidays. Makes a great school lesson, lots of opportunity for TV to educate on that day, and opens the door to lots of discussion as to who should be included.

I suppose given how much better they are than Columbus, almost any American could be on the list (none, I believe, were responsible for as much wanton terror and torture as Columbus). He also wasn't an American. Of the singular recommendations, none, in my view, deserve such a singular holiday.

Of course, you could create a publication list celebrating each person on their birthday or on a date of newsworthy note in their life. No holiday is needed -- just recognition on a calendar or by news shows or by Congressional decree. We would learn more and, with 365 days on the calendar, there's always something to be learned and appreciated.

Holidays -- derived from "holy days" -- should be for reflection. If it's just for shopping or BBQs, that's OK from a celebration point of view, and we certainly deserve more days off, but we should keep clear on our purpose.

Patricia Self
Patricia Selfabout a year ago

Washington's birthday is a national holiday. In some states, Lincoln's birthday has been a holiday. We now have President's Day to combine the two and any others individual areas find worthy. March, April, June, and August have no holidays whatsoever. We don't need to look far to find amazing people who've done much to better the country and/or make our lives better.
Once I understood that Columbus did not, in truth, "discover" America, I wondered why we made a holiday of his birthday. I think I was in high school at the time. It's nice to have a holiday in October. I just wish it were for a more laudable personage.
Given that everybody loves a paid day off from work (or school), why can the personage we celebrate be one who contributed good things and made the world a better place to live?

Alexandra G.
Alexandra G.about a year ago


Leia P.
Leia P.about a year ago


Dave C.
Dave C.about a year ago

All are unique people with special skills and experiences....I would like the next to be Ms. Parks.....