The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) has asked the University of Notre Dame to reconsider its decision to cover the historic Christopher Columbus murals on its campus.
On Jan. 20, University of Notre Dame President John I. Jenkins announced in a written statement that the series of Christopher Columbus murals located on the second floor of the Main Building on the university campus would be “covered by a woven material.”
Jenkins wrote, “Painted in 1882-84… [the murals] reflect the attitudes of the time and were intended as a didactic presentation, responding to cultural challenges for the school’s largely immigrant, Catholic population… In recent years, however, many have come to see the murals as at best blind to the consequences of Columbus’s voyage for the indigenous peoples who inhabited this ‘new’ world and at worst demeaning toward them.”
In a letter to Jenkins, NIAF CEO Lawrence J. Purpuro wrote, “…it is both unfair and totally unrealistic to apply today’s political norms to a historical figure from 500 years ago. If the practice of applying today’s standards to historical figures made sense, there would be a strong argument to remove memorials and monuments to individuals from Thomas Jefferson to George Washington—both of whom were supporters of the abhorrent practice of slavery.”
Purpuro added, “…while there remain serious scholarly debates about certain attitudes and actions of Columbus, he alone should not be burdened with the entire fate of Native Americans… We do not believe the University of Notre Dame should take this unilateral action—and seek to erase history—simply to appease a small number of vocal Columbus detractors.”
Please see the NIAF letter to the University of Notre Dame President attached.