Pioneering 19th-century artist Emma Stebbins might well have been the latest victim of the irrational frenzy that seeks to wipe away all memory of Christopher Columbus. Stebbins, a trailblazer who was gay, was the first woman awarded a New York City art commission for her interpretation of the Great Admiral of the Ocean Sea. In 2021, a small group known as Take Down Columbus set their sights on ridding Stebbins’ Columbus statue, commissioned in 1863 and one of her earliest works. Determined to prevent Stebbins and Columbus from being carried off into the night, a group of courageous New Yorkers stepped forward, demanding that Community Board 2 in Brooklyn Heights reject Take Down Columbus. Nearly two years later, I am proud to report that Emma Stebbins and her Columbus memorial in Columbus Park have prevailed, thanks to a coalition of activists and their appeal to drop the hate and seek the truth.
As we begin 2023, we thank all who have supported the Columbus Heritage Coalition and its mission, as we say, to “Drop the hate. Seek the truth.” We are proud of what we all have achieved together. The new year will bring new challenges, including a proposal in the New York State Legislature that abolishes Columbus Day and renames the holiday Indigenous People Day. Rest assured, we will continue to reach out, build bridges, and protect our statues, holidays, and heritage.
Happy New Year!
Columbus Heritage Coalition