California Legislators Say 137-Year-Old Christopher Columbus Statue Will Be Removed From State Capitol

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Douglas Nichols Contributor
Font Size:

California mounted its own attack on racially insensitive monuments Tuesday by announcing the removal of a statue of Christopher Columbus, a centerpiece of its state capitol in Sacramento since 1883.

The decision came in a statement from state Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, and Assembly Rules Committee Chairman Ken Cooley, saying the statue was deeply polarizing “given the deadly impact his arrival in this hemisphere had on indigenous populations.”

While much of the backlash following the death of George Floyd has called for the removal of Confederate monuments, it has also targeted statues representing the colonization and enslavement of the Americas. This particular statue in the California state capitol has been subject to criticism since the 1970’s, according to politico, as it depicts Columbus appealing to Queen Isabella II, who would eventually finance Columbus’ voyages to the Americas and the consequential colonization that ensued.

Many Democratic lawmakers praised this decision, saying the statue was “out of place.” However, Robert Niello, a former Republican assembly member from the Sacramento area tweeted his disapproval, saying “I guess now if we don’t like part of our history we just erase it.”

The Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento also removed its statue of John Sutter, as he is also tied to European colonization.  (RELATED: Boston Mayor Mulls Removing Lincoln Statue That Features Freed Slave)

While it is not yet clear when or how this statue will be taken down, it remains certain that the Columbus statue will be removed and replaced with what state Senator Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park) called “a monument that truly represents a California for all.”