Co columbus day is a long time national holiday.
But this year, not everyone celebrated.
In fact, a growing army of critics question whether he - or some other historical notables - should be standing tall at all.
It's a list that, mo rocca tells us, seems to be growing... mo rocca: 00:00:26 what do you think when you look at that statue?
Erica armstrong dunbar:00:00:29 it's george washington.
It's the first president of the united states.
It's the leader of the american revolution.
But i also see a slaveholder.
Rutgers history professor erica armstrong dunbar has dedicated much of her career to telling the story of ona judge, one of the more than three hundred black people enslaved by president george washington and his wife martha.
Dunbar - walk and talk: 17:54:47 - george washington walked up this corridor for the multiple years he lived in philadelphia & ona judge managed to escape when the couple was living here in philadelphia, the nation's capital during the 1790s.
Professor dunbar: 12:47:41 the-- the washingtons were very-- adamant that they wanted ona judge to return.
And what's so very interesting is to think about george and martha washington // relentlessly pursuing ona judge // he was using slave- catching agents to collect martha washington, and his, property// 12:50:22 and we have to reckon that there was that side of washington alongside of his contributions to the creation of the nation.
And for dunbar, that reckoning may mean taking washington down from his pedestal - literally.
Mo rocca: 13:02:24 should some monuments to george washington be removed?
Professor dunbar: 13:02:30 i think it makes sense to have monuments of remembrance for george washington in spaces where there's a direct connection to him//13:02:52 but do i need to see george washington's face in every park or places throughout cities?
No, not necessarily.
// 13:03:08 //because for some people he's a reminder of the trauma of slavery.
áááthe long running battle over america's monuments erupted in 2015 -- after a white supremacist murdered nine african americans at charleston, south carolina's mother emanuel church.
Since then around 100 confederate statues have been dishonorably discharged.
But since the death of george floyd, the range of figures targeted as racist or oppressive has expanded well beyond the civil war south.
This is a conflict, dunbar says, with real stakes.
Protestors chanting : "take it down!"
"black live matter!"
" justice, no peace" professor dunbar: 13:10:29 monuments are literally elevated above the people, right?
13:11:19 // this is a wrestle over power, this is a wrestle over who gets to tell the nation's history, who gets to be at the top of that history.
But the power politics behind memorials aren't always obvious.
Christopher columbus has long been controversial, a brilliant navigator and a brutal colonialist.
Protestor: that's telling me i'm less than human.
My people are brown skinned beasts.
Man in tank top: this statue is all about italian american pride in this neighborhood and what they did for this country.
But many columbus statues were erected in the early twentieth century as symbols of pride for italian- americans, a group that had faced fierce prejudice, even lynchings in the 1890s.
Man in tank top & slapping every italian american in the face with this bs that's going on here.
Lonnie bunch: 10:28:13 for many italian americans, this was a way to demonstrate that they contributed to making america they were equal.
So, my sense is, though, very few people know that when they look at a columbus statue.
As secretary of the smithsonian, lonnie bunch may be the closest thing america has to a national curator.
He believes monuments should reflect today's values.
Lonnie bunch: // 10:38:02 i think that what the columbus statue tells us, is that // it's a challenge to take something that was done 70 years ago and help it evolve.
So, my notion is that some of these statues can be pruned.
Black man: we have to get rid of every racist monument in this country.
White woman: it's part of history.
And it should stay here.
Mo rocca: 10:38:59 in general, are you heartened by all of these debates?
Lonnie bunch: 10:39:05 anytime people talk about history, i'm a happy guy.
// and i think there's something powerful about a country periodically debating who it is, to become.
But what many have found jarring is the lack of debate.
Missionary junipero serra: torched.
Augustus saint gauden's tribute to an all black union regiment - graffitied.
Thomas jefferson - toppled.
Grant - fallen.
Even gandhi has taken a bruising.
ááá even gandhi has been bloodied.
Mo rocca: 13:19:40 as a historian do you start to wonder, "i wonde if all these people know their history?"
Professor dunbar: 13:19:55 well, actually no, i don't wonder.
I know that they don't.
I know that the vast majority of americans don't know their history.
Mo rocca: 13:20:02 does that bother you?
Professor dunbar: 13:20:03 yeah, of cour-- i-- it horrifies me.
I also understand that there's-- there's anger.
// and sometimes there's collateral damage.
Richard brookhiser 13:44:40 there is a big element of anti- americanism in this.
Not only anti the bad things, but anti the good things, because there are no good things, right?
The whole history is corrupt.
And i think that's wrong.
Writer richard brookhiser thinks a little bit of humility is in order.
Richard brookhiser: 13:39:18 i mean, if you're only gonna have statues of perfect people, you're gonna be left with jesus christ.
// you're not gonna have a lot of other statues.
We have to-- we have to realize that about ourselves and about the dead.
Brookhiser is the biographer of several founding fathers including washington.
Richard brookhiser: 13:48:55 washington was a hero in the struggle for self- rule.
And the struggle for self- rule is the big story of the last 250 years.
It includes all the other stories// it includes anti- colonialism, it includes the struggle against racism.
// 14:09:20 the american revolution was the greatest experiment in human political history.
And it's crazy to throw that in the garbage can.
Lonnie bunch 10:41:03 i do not think you erase washington and jefferson and, of course, obviously, now everybody loves hamilton.
Lonnie bunch sees in washington and our other slaveholding founding fathers contradictions we should strive to understand.
Lonnie bunch: it's almost like saying: how do you understand your parents if you only know a little bit about them?
The more you know about them, the more you better understand who they were and then who you are.
And that's what i'd like us to see with some of the founding fathers.
Help people understand a little better who they once were and who they can be.
Mo rocca: 10:41:38 it's a big moment in anyone's life when they realize their parents aren't perfect people, right?
Lonnie bunch: 10:41:43 you're right.
And then as you get older, you realize-- they were more perfect than you thought initially.
áááperhaps the best way to bring peace to our memorial landscape is to add statues& in 2017 philadelphia dedicated this statue of octavius catto - a 19th century african- american civil rights activist who was murdered on his way to vote.
It's right outside city hall which is where we bumped into philly resident les starkey and his daughter summer.
Starkey: 16:57:49 this gentleman finally got his due.
// mo rocca: 16:59:12 but seeing this statue gives you a feeling of?
Starkey: 16:59:17 pride.
I lift my chest up a little more.
I do, man.
I mean, it's one of us.
I can do somethin' great like him.
// he was a great man, summer.
We're gonna read more about him, okay?
Passions may continue flaring in the short term.
Emancipation memorial protest: 19:17:00 - black man, red shirt: are you angry?
Black man, red shirt: are you angry?
Guy: i'm mad!
19:19:33 - crowd cutaway but as in all things historical, it's important to consider the long view.
Mo rocca: 14:00:40 this isn't the first time in history that statues have been toppled.
Richard brookhiser: 14:00:44 no, there was-- there was a statue toppled-- in new york city in 1776.
// 14:01:13 a gilded statue of george iii which had been put up when we all thought he was a good guy.
Mo rocca: 14:01:21 the british monarch?
Richard brookhiser: 14:01:22 the british monarch.
// we were fighting a revolution against him.
14:01:36 the statue was torn down.
And the story is that it was-- it was made of lead and the lead was melted into bullets.
Mo rocca: 14:02:50 are any of these things permanent?
Richard brookhiser: 14:02:53 nothing is permanent.
You know, we're all gonna die.
There'll-- there'll come a time when the united states doesn't exist anymore.
Mo rocca: 14:03:07 some things last longer than others?
Richard brookhiser: 14:03:09 well, some things last longer than others, and let's hope the good things last longest.
Even if you don't follow basketball, you probably know that this has been a tough season for the lakers.
A reason to celebrate