Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Real truth about Columbus

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
Posted: September 30, 2007
Updated: November 18, 2007

As Americans gear up to celebrate "Columbus Day" on 12th October, it is apropos to disseminate the real truth about Christopher Columbus. At the outset, it must be stated that Columbus not only discovered absolutely nothing but, in fact, he was also the one who was actually lost.

In his book titled They Came Before Columbus (1976), Guyanese anthropologist/historian Dr. Ivan van Sertima proves that Africans were in the Americas in the B.C. era about a thousand years before Columbus. Columbus/Europeans came to this region in the A.D. era.

Indeed, Columbus himself acknowledged this historical truism when he wrote in his diary on his second voyage in September 1493 as follows:
"The natives of Hispaniola (now Haiti) came to me and told me that Blacks (Africans) had come from the South and Southeast trading with them in gold-tip medal spears. They (Africans) came in large boats."
And in "Pre-Columbian Black Presence in the Western Hemisphere" (September/October 1975), Almose A. Thompson, Jr., postulates that:
"At the time of Columbus, African navigators were in advance of their white European counterparts. They had (already) established documented trade with China, Mediterranean Europe, India and Atlantic islands. The Africans laid the cornerstone for the major advances in maritime arts by applying their knowledge of measurement science to the field of navigation. During the fifteenth century, Prince Henry, the Navigator, set up a school where Portuguese instructors of navigation were taught in turn at Moorish (African) schools. Here, pilots were instructed in the art of navigation, including those of Columbus. The (most) important thing to note is that the Moors (Africans) prepared (educated) some of the Europeans who subsequently made major Atlantic 'discovery' crossings."
Professor Thompson, Jr., concludes quite equivocally in these words:
"In the face of the overwhelming preponderance of evidence we must accept the fact that Africans reached the shores of the Western Hemisphere before Columbus."
Historiography suggests that the idea of 'discovery' did not come from the mind of Columbus.

On 29 May 1453, Muhammad 11, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, captured Constantinople, capital of the eastern Roman Empire. The fall of Constantinople thereby closed the sea route between Europe and the East. Ergo, a new sea route had to be found/discovered to meet the European demand for Asian commodities such as jewels, perfumes, spices, silks and drugs.

When Columbus contracted with the Spanish Crown of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, it was not initially to "discover' lands or to engage in 'voyages.' The reality is that his escapades were described as "Business Trips"/ "Survival Missions" as part of the "Enterprise of the Indies."

According to Dan Carlinsky (1992), "On 12 October, Columbus reached what he thought was 'the Indies'---the islands of the Orient---in the vicinity of Japan. The landfall was, in fact, in the Bahamas." Moreover, Columbus not only "miscalculated the size of the earth" but has also falsely laid claim to have 'discovered' America.

One American-Indian categorically sets the record straight by emphasizing that:

"Native Americans had built great civilizations with many millions of people long before Columbus wandered lost into the Caribbean." Another corroborates: "He (Columbus) didn't discover us; we knew where we were. (He didn't know where he was)."

In his article titled "Christopher Confusion" (February-March 1992), Dan Carlinsky brings to the fore "an opposing voice" to "the traditional view (that) sees (Columbus) as a great hero who led Europe to the New World."

According to this global "opposing voice":
"Columbus represents a greedy Europe that stormed into a hemisphere of peace-loving people and subjugated the population, wiping-out millions---some with weapons and some, unintentionlly, with European-bred diseases of which the inhabitants had no knowledge and to which they had no immunity."
The fact of the matter is that in 1498, there were 40,000 Amerindians living in Trinidad before the arrival of Euro- Spanish Columbus; by 1838, this number was reduced to a miniscule 520 a la European genocide.

The genocide that Columbus was inflicting on the indigenous/original peoples of the Caribbean came to an end when Queen Isabella was forced/compelled to send Francis de Bobadilla to investigate Columbus' genocide against the Arawaks in then Hispaniola. Columbus was ordered to be taken back to Spain in chains as a "common prisoner" and to be ceremoniously chastised by Queen Isabella.

This episode aptly epitomizes the "Disgrace of Columbus". Deceased Afri-centric, African-American scholar/historian Dr. John Henrik Clarke correctly sums up the real truth about Columbus in his book titled Christopher Columbus & the African Holocaust (1992) thus:
"The Columbus anniversary (12 October) is a celebration of mass murder, slavery and conquest. Christopher Columbus discovered absolutely nothing; he was an adventurer, an opportunist and a willful murderer and a liar and that what he set in motion was the basis of Western capitalism and exploitation of both Africans and indigenous Americans who had committed no crimes against European people and did not know of European intention to conquer and enslave them. (The) facts are plain: Columbus was a thief, an invader, an organizer of rape of Indian women, a slave trader, a reactionary religious fanatic and the personal director of a campaign of mass murder of defenseless peoples."
Now is the time for Caribbean education ministers to pass a resolution to the extent that the chapter captioned "Discovery of the West Indies by Columbus" should be deleted/expunged from every book written about the history of the Caribbean/West Indies.

Now is the time, in the era of forty-five years of putative political independence and "Independent Thought and Caribbean Freedom" for Caribbean peoples to re-write their history and not to perpetuate, promulgate, re-iterate and regurgitate HIS-STORY.

Caribbean peoples must begin to put potent measures in place to emancipate themselves from the shackles of mental slavery because "none but ourselves can free our minds." Indeed, deceased/assassinated leader of the then Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) in South Africa, Steve Biko once admonished (1976): "The most powerful weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed."

Now is the time for conscious Caribbean peoples to re-write their own history from their own perspective/frame of reference in order to retrieve/recapture/reclaim their mind from the clutches of European supremacy, albeit the Euro-centric analysis/interpretation of Caribbean history.

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies and University of the West Indies.

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