Columbus State Community College Will Remove Christopher Columbus Statue

Jun 16, 2020

Columbus State Community College announced Tuesday that it will "dismantle and store" a statue of Christopher Columbus on its downtown campus.

“The removal of the Christopher Columbus statue is a symbolic gesture of our commitment to our College and in our community to continue and accelerate the fight against systemic racism,” said Columbus State President David Harrison in a statement. “Recent events, including the senseless deaths of African-Americans and the resulting anguish across the nation, compelled us to act on a years-long internal dialogue about the statue and the message it sends in our community."

During recent demonstrations over police violence and racism, protesters across the nation have revived criticism over Confederate monuments and statues of Columbus, for his role in the rape and genocide of Native Americans.

Columbus also hosts two statues of the Italian explorer in front of City Hall and at the Ohio Statehouse. On Tuesday, City Council president pro tem Elizabeth Brown said the city should remove those monuments, as well.

"Christopher Columbus led the brutalizing and murder of indigenous people in this hemisphere. It's (past) time for his statue at City Hall to go! While we're at it, let's redesign our seal, which depicts his ships that moved men here to commit racial genocide," Brown tweeted.

Elissa Washuta, an English professor Ohio State University and member of Cowlitz Indian Tribe, has been involved in rallies to bring down the Columbus statues around town.

"All the pieces of systemic oppression need to go, need to be dismantled, and this is one piece of a larger thing, but it's very powerful, very visibly present in the city," Washuta says.

Washuta praised Columbus State for taking a step before the city.

"In the midst of so much talk that I hear about how difficult it would be, people saying that the city isn't ready, I think it's so powerful to see that the college made a statement that this is their intention, that they are going to do this," she says.

Columbus State says the statue will be removed and placed in storage within two weeks, and it will look for a new art installation to put at the same location.

Columbus State says its statue was originally created by sculptor Alfred Solani in 1959 and installed in an Illinois park. In 1988, after being restored by a local sculptor, the statue was moved to the grounds of Columbus State.

"Our students contributed their voices to this discourse around systemic racism, reinforcing the conclusion that the Christopher Columbus statue is not consistent with the values and mission of Columbus State," Harrison wrote. "How we choose to memorialize or celebrate our history is always the result of choices and is both dynamic and evolving as we are inclusive of more voices."

After the college's announcement, the Columbus statues at the school and in front of City Hall were vandalized Tuesday night. 

In St. Louis, a century-old Christopher Columbus statue was quietly removed from Tower Grove Park on Tuesday morning. Last week, protesters pulled down a Columbus statue in Richmond, Va. at the same time that Boston's statue was beheaded overnight.