Button Up! #12 – Columbus Was Lost

columbus2 ¼ inches (1992). Chrstine Jones and Thomas Edward Pearce, Louisville KY

This button dates from the runup to the Columbus Quincentennial in 1992, an event which ironically marked a qualitative leap forward in the drive to end the glorification of the genocidal navigator and the European world domination he kicked into overdrive.

It became a big fat hit among young anti-racist activists. It (and a companion tee-shirt) were designed and produced locally in Louisville, KY by Average Tom Pearce, a young American Indian Movement activist (who is still at it today, almost a quarter century later). Those buttons and shirts, along with the Columbus Discovered America—NOT tee-shirts designed by graphix ace ERK were mainstays on Freedom Road and Progressive Student network lit tables that year.


Its attraction was, and remains, its bluntness. No extensive slogans about insane greed, genocide, the start of the Atlantic slave trade and the rest of it. It takes a stand and invites agreement, inquiry or debate from viewers. And the line it embodies keep gaining ground. This year, when people see it on my shirt and want to talk, I get to tell them about Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which has over the last two years officially replaced Columbus Day in Seattle, St. Paul and many smaller cities. If they seem interested I’ll tell ‘em to read Charles C. Mann’s 1491.

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