Why Columbus did actually discover the Americas

This Instagram post from Save Columbus Day makes a great argument for why it is actually correct to say that Columbus discovered the Americas. 

As the post points out, the dictionary definition of “discover” is:

“To notice or learn, especially by making an effort.”


“To be the first, or the first of one’s group or kind, to find, learn of, or observe.”

It’s indisputable that Columbus made an effort in finding the new continent. Starting when he was a child, he was so interested in the sea and traveling, that he took the initiative to teach himself sailing skills, geography, history, and different languages. He was so confident and impassioned about trying to find a westward route to Asia, that he spent years trying to persuade the rulers of various kingdoms to finance his idea. And of course, once he finally gained backing from Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain, the voyage itself required great effort from Columbus and his crew. They sailed in wooden boats, into literally unknown territory, far from home, with no comforts, little to eat or drink, and at the mercy of the dangerous seas. Columbus’s voyage absolutely fits the first definition of the word “discover.”

Additionally, Columbus was indisputably the first of his group or kind to learn of the new continent. The anti-Columbus bullies enjoy making the tired, hackneyed argument that Columbus did not discover the Americas because there were already people living there. Of course, it is true that people were living on the continent when Columbus arrived, so Columbus was not the very first person ever to discover the Americas. He was, however, the first European person to do so, which means that Columbus’s voyage fits the second definition of the word “discover” as well. 

The fact that the anti-Columbus bullies completely ignore this part of the definition – the fact that being the first of one’s group or kind counts as discovering as well – demonstrates their intolerance and racism. The anti-Columbus bullies see things only from the indigenous perspective. Other perspectives and viewpoints don’t matter to them. In their eyes, because Columbus was European, his perspective and his viewpoints don’t matter, and his accomplishments don’t matter. In their eyes, because Columbus is from a different group or kind than themselves, he ought to be attacked, condemned, and shamed, and his accomplishments dismissed and ridiculed. This is why I use the word “bullies.” Anti-Columbus activists are operating from a place of intolerance for any perspectives, viewpoints, and cultures other than their own. In their eyes, the only people who matter are themselves. 

Christopher Columbus was the first European person – the first of his group or kind – to discover the Americas. And that accomplishment matters.