Page 165 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

Basic HTML Version

157
Double Quincentenary
Koning in a
New York Times
Op Ed piece for August 14, 1990 titled
“Don’t Celebrate 1492—Mourn It.” His message that “Our false
heroes and a false sense of the meaning of courage and manliness
have too long burdened our national spirit” fed directly into the
lingering
desengano
of the Vietnam war.
500 years after the Conquest, as the atmosphere underwent po­
litical correction and it was no longer acceptable to gloss over the
extinction of Native Americans or the enslavement of Africans,
news of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain reached the mass me­
dia. The
Herald Tribune
(International Edition, 30 July 1990) ran
“The Dark Side of 1492: Spain’s Eviction of Jews.” A
Detroit Free
Press
supplement on “Columbus Shock” (9 February 1992) came as
close as journalists can to relating the disasters that befell Indians,
Africans, Jews and Muslims in 1492. The
LosAngeles Times
gave ex­
tensive coverage to the locally-held conference on the Expulsion.3
USA Today
joined the trend with “Clouds over the legend of Co­
lumbus,” its cover story on 15January 1991. Exposure of the public
to the facts of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in both schol­
arly and popular forums helped stimulate reinterpretdon of the
quincentenary.
By publicizing the negative aspects of 1492, the mass media add­
ed dimension and depth to public understanding of this historic
period. Interestingly, Jamil S. Zainaldin, president of the Federa­
tion of State Humanities Councils, had predicted this development
in the
Chronicle ofHigher Education
as far back as 1989, when he
wrote that the quincentenary would “[bring] about a closer rela­
tionship between scholar and community, in which the communi­
ty’s need to know and understand our past will become part of the
scholar’s quest for new knowledge,” and that the infusion of
knowledge by humanists could make “our public celebrations oc­
casions for serious thought and reflection as well as for pageantry.”
The Quincentenary not only stimulated Native Americans, Afri­
can Americans, and American Jews to respond to the findings of
3.
“Ships of Sorrow,” 14 November 1991 and “Sephardic Jews Mark Exile
of 1492,” 19 November 1991.