Debunking the many Christopher Columbus myths

Spoiler: He didn't discover America

By Lauren M. Johnson, CNN
Sebastiano del Piombo via Wikimedia Commons

(CNN) - We grow up learning all kinds of history about the founding of America, and one of the explorers taught in every classroom is Christopher Columbus. But how much do we actually know about him as an explorer and his famous journey?

Columbus was the first explorer to discover America.

False: Scholars believe it was Viking Leif Erickson who first came from overseas to America. In fact, they believe Columbus wasn't even the first European to discover what we know as the Americas.

Columbus came in three ships known as the Nina, Pinta, and the Santa Maria.

True: His crew did in fact come over on those ships. Several replicas have been made over the years, including a fleet that was gifted to Texas from Spain. The last of the replica ships sank in April.

Columbus used the natives to help him with his exploration of the continent. He loved them so much he took back artifacts to show the king and queen.

True and False: He did utilize the help of one chief on the island of Haiti and took back gold, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. But he actually took some of the natives back to the "Old World" as slaves. Columbus and his crew gave the gift of violence and disease to the islands they discovered.

Columbus landed in Florida when he came to America.

False: He first landed on the island of Guanahani in the Bahamas. He actually never set foot in North America, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, but in present day Venezuela on his fourth journey.

Columbus only made one trip and came home rich

False: Columbus actually made four trips to the Caribbean, and despite bringing back gold, he died in poverty.

Columbus genuinely thought he had reached China even until his death

True: Though he was doubted by many, and the evidence was stacked against him, Columbus really believed he had accomplished the goal of reaching China and Japan.

Columbus was instrumental in the colonization of North America leading to what our country is today.

True: Even though he didn't technically discover America, he did have a major impact in Atlantic exploration and eventually colonization.

Columbus Day is a modern holiday established in the 1900's.

False: President Benjamin Harrison established a celebration of Columbus Day on the 400th anniversary of Columbus' landing in 1892.

The District of Columbia is named after Christopher Columbus.

True: Several cities, rivers, and other landmarks have also been named after the explorer.

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