Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years by Bill Bigelow

Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years by Bill BigelowRethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years: Resources for Teaching about the Impact of the Arrival of Columbus in the Americas by Bill Bigelow
Published by Rethinking Schools on January 1, 2008
Genres: Education, History
Pages: 189
Source: I purchased a copy of this book.
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This is a revised and expanded edition of a popular 1991 booklet that changed the way "the discovery of America" is taught in classroom (elementary and secondary) and community settings. The new edition has over 100 pages of new material, including a role-play trial of Columbus, materials on Thanksgiving Day, resources, historical documents, poetry, and more. It will help readers replace murky legends with a better sense of who we are and why we are here -- and celebrates over 500 years of the courageous struggles and lasting wisdom of native peoples.


Columbus Day (ugh) and Thanksgiving are well behind us, but the content of Rethinking Columbus is relevant all year round—and so important! I heard about this book from the Zinn Education Project website, and I can’t imagine talking with C about U.S. history without having read this great resource.

Rethinking Columbus outlines the connection between Columbus’s actions and the issues facing Native people today, making the long-term effects clear. The book doesn’t foster cynicism; instead, it offers hope and inspires action. It contains historical accounts from less-known or unheard perspectives; quotes primary sources (such as passages from Columbus’s own writings); and showcases poems, songs, essays, and a variety of (often differing) opinions from modern Native people—a strong reminder that they are active members of society today, not extinct cultures of the past.

This resource also gives suggested classroom activities (which are easily adaptable for homeschoolers), as well as books and websites for further reading. I would have liked more of these suggested activities, but I think the book succeeded in its intent to correct common misconceptions and highlight Native voices.

  • Ooooh, need this in my life. It’s a big gap in my reading that I’m trying to fill. <3

  • I’m almost positive I read this as an undergrad in one of my courses for teaching history (I must have had a good professor!) and remember it being SO GOOD.

  • Thanks for this post! I’ve been looking for something exactly like this book. I agree with you that these concepts are relevant all year round.

  • This sounds like something every history teacher should read. Great review!