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?