25 Shocking Moments Of US History You Might Not Know About

Posted by , Updated on March 23, 2024

While the United States has been the source of numerous positive achievements, it’s equally accountable for several negative incidents. To evolve as better citizens, it’s crucial we recognize and address our comprehensive history. Here are 25 Astounding Moments in US History That May Surprise You.



George Washington’s genocidal tendencies

George WashingtonSource: wikipedia, Image: commons.wikimedia.org (public domain: author's life + 100 yrs)

Just to give you an idea, Washington’s nickname in the Iroquois language roughly translates to “Town Destroyer” or “Devourer of Villages.”


White flight (20th century)

suburbSource: wikipedia

Contrary to Europe, in the United States most wealthy residents live in suburbs while the more urban neighborhoods are poor and run down. This is a result of wealthy white citizens moving out of racially mixed urban neighborhoods and into “all white” suburban neighborhoods during the 50’s and 60’s. This trend is reversing now, but it has led to talk of “gentrification.”


Agent Orange

Agent OrangeSource: wikipedia, Image: commons.wikimedia.org (public domain)

This herbicide was used by the US military during the Vietnam War to get rid of foliage in order to better spot the Viet Kong. Although the US government refused to acknowledge it for quite some time, Agent Orange continues to have devastating effects on both the Vietnamese and the veterans who fought in the war.


San Francisco’s early history

San FranciscoSource: wikipedia, Image: commons.wikimedia.org (public domain: author's life + 70 yrs)

It started out during the gold rush and was mostly populated by thieves, pirates, and prostitutes. The US Army nearly invaded once, and the city was burned to the ground by pirates several times. It was a lawless place.


Extraordinary rendition

Extraordinary renditionSource: wikipedia

Also known as “torture by proxy,” this is when the US government extradites a prisoner to a third country where torture is legal.


Bonus Army March (1932)

washington dcSource: wikipedia, Image: pixabay.com (public domain)

Thousands of WWI veterans marched on Washington DC demanding to be paid what the government had promised. Instead of paying them, the government sent in the military to disperse the marchers. Several died and thousands more were injured.



nooseSource: wikipedia

American history is replete with extrajudicial killings. It makes it even worse when you consider that people would bring their lunches to public lynchings and sit around laughing as someone was executed.


The Battle of Athens (1946)

The Battle of AthensSource: wikipedia

Soldiers returning from World War II took up arms against corrupt politicians in Athens, Tennessee.


Japanese Internment Camps

Japanese Internment CampsSource: wikipedia, Image: commons.wikimedia.org (public domain)

On the orders of President Roosevelt, nearly 120,000 Japanese were rounded up and thrown into internment/concentration camps after the attack on Pearl Harbor. More than half of these “prisoners” were United States citizens who had never done anything wrong.


Christopher Columbus

Christopher ColumbusSource: wikipedia, Image: commons.wikimedia.org (public domain: author's life + 100 yrs)

He is possibly the most celebrated genocidal maniac in history.


Tulsa Race Riots (1921)

Tulsa Race RiotsSource: wikipedia, Image: commons.wikimedia.org (public domain: published before 1923)

The Greenwood District, the wealthiest black community in the US, was burned to the ground by white rioters. (The community had even earned the name “The Black Wall Street.”) For decades, this riot was not even talked about in schools.


If this is shocking to you, wait until you see number 1!


The California Indian Genocide (1846 and 1870)

The California Indian GenocideSource: wikipedia, Image: commons.wikimedia.org (public domain: published before 1923)

When the government of California issued a statement that it would pay any citizen that helped it eliminate the “indian problem” in the state, the native population dropped from around 150,000 to 30,000.


Jim Crow Laws

Jim Crow LawsSource: wikipedia, Image: commons.wikimedia.org (public domain)

Much of the racial trouble in the United States today can be traced back to Jim Crow laws. These laws promoted segregation and essentially created a very visible black/white divide in the United States. Although the laws have been repealed, the effect is still very widely felt.


Project MKUltra

Project MKUltraSource: wikipedia, Image: pixabay.com (public domain)

The CIA illegally experimented on human subjects in an attempt to find drugs and torture techniques that would help force confessions.



martin luther kingSource: wikipedia, Image: commons.wikimedia.org (public domain)

The FBI tried to monitor, blackmail, and even murder prominent civil rights activists.


Invasion of Puerto Rico

puerto ricoSource: wikipedia

By now you can probably imagine what happened. American business saw an opportunity, and the American military happened to provide them with that opportunity. The massacres and killings that followed were terrible (Massacre of Ponce, Massacre of Rio Piedras, etc).


Support of militant Islam

al qaedaSource: wikipedia

For years, the United States funded rebel Islamist groups in an attempt to fight communism by proxy. In fact, many of the terror groups and dictatorships (Saddam Hussein, Al Qaeda, etc) were almost directly created, funded, and supported by the United States during the Cold War.


The Labor Rights Movement

labor rightsSource: wikipedia

It was an extremely bloody period in American history. The amount of blood that was shed in order to have an 8 hour workday is almost unreal.


The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment (1932 - 1972)

The Tuskegee Syphilis ExperimentSource: wikipedia, Image: commons.wikimedia.org (public domain)

African American men were told they would get free treatment. Instead, scientists left them untreated so that they could study how syphilis progressed.


Klan membership in the early 1900's

kkkSource: wikipedia, Image: commons.wikimedia.org (public domain)

It was actually quite a popular thing to be a Klan member. The Texas State Fair even had a Klan Day.


TPAJAX Project

iranSource: wikipedia, Image: commons.wikimedia.org (public domain)

This was the codename for the 1953 Iranian coup d’état where the United States helped the United Kingdom overthrow the Iranian government and replace it with one that favored the west. Why? Because the Iranian parliament was trying to nationalize its oil fields and kick out the British. This has unsurprisingly created lasting anti-US sentiment in the region.



nazisSource: wikipedia

Hitler’s ideas about selective breeding, sterilization, and master races were actually inspired by the United States.


The annexation of Hawaii

HawaiiSource: wikipedia

Because apparently the threat of force is different from the actual application of force.



united fruit companySource: wikipedia

This was the CIA operation that installed a US backed dictatorship in Guatemala. Why? Because the Guatemalan government had refused to continue paying the United Fruit Company its extortionate prices. As with the Iranian revolution, this has created lasting anti-US sentiment in Latin America.


Ludlow Massacre

ludlow massacreSource: wikipedia, Image: commons.wikimedia.org (public domain: first publication prior to 1923)

Striking coal miners were massacred by the Colorado National Guard on the orders of their boss, Rockefeller. Imagine if your boss could call in the army to murder both you and your family because you refused to work for slave wages.


Photos: 24. Andreas Praefcke via wikimedia commons, 21. opensocietyfoundations.org via transcend.org via wikimedia commons, 19. Global Panorama via flickr, 18. Brian Stansberry via wikimedia commons, 10. cogito ergo imago via flickr, 9. Noofa2401 via wikimedia commons, 8. Kheel Center via flickr, 4. Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-02134 / CC-BY-SA 3.0 via wikimedia commons, 3. Jeff Kubina via flickr, 2. Michael Bentley via flickr