History can be fun, disastrous, atrocious, exciting and enlightening. So it’s such a shame that the typical curriculum is often white-washed, stale and uninteresting. The following are 10 historical events you probably haven’t heard of:
The White Lotus Movement
The White Lotus Society (Bai Lian Jiao) was a religious and political movement that first appeared in 14th century imperial China. The society was rooted in the Mahayana branch of Buddhism. The use of images and drawings in its teachings made it easy to understand, and as a result it gathered popularity quickly. Such was its popularity that authorities banned the society, forcing its members to go underground and operate in secret. This led to the White Lotus Rebellion, a large-scale uprising in central China which contributed to the decline of the Qing dynasty.
Muhammed Ali and the hostages
We all know of him as the legendary boxer, but what you might not know is that Muhammed Ali was able to secure the release of 15 Americans held hostage by Saddam Hussein in Iraq. In the face of huge controversy and criticism Ali, 48 years old and suffering from Parkinson’s disease, flew to Baghdad in a bold attempt to negotiate the release of the hostages. He was revered by the citizens and signed autographs everywhere he went. After a week he ran out of his Parkinson’s medication but stayed there. Ali met with Saddam and their conversation was open to the media. Ali promised the president he would return to the US with ‘an honest account’ of Iraq. All 15 hostages were released and filmed going into Ali’s hotel room before flying back to the US with him on 2 December 1990.
You may know that the US government attempted a nationwide ban on the consumption, importation, and sale of alcohol between 1922-1933. This left a prosperous black market of redistilled industrial alcohol to emerge instead. Alarmingly, regulators called for the addition of highly toxic chemicals to make the alcohol impossible to drink without severe poisoning. It is estimated that close to 10,000 people died as a result of the poisoning.
The lost Roanoke Colony
The Roanoke Colony was founded in 1587 off the coast of what is now North Carolina, USA, by a small colony of 115 English settlers. They occupied the island, fought with the Native American owners of the land, and struggled with a shortage of supplies. The governor of the newfound colony, John White, sailed back to England for a fresh batch of supplies, and didn’t return until 1590. He returned to find that the settlers/occupiers had all disappeared, with almost no trace of the colony they had established. The only existing evidence to the former colony was a single word carved on a wooden post – Croatoan. Investigations have continued over the centuries but it all remains a mystery.
The death of Heraclitus
Heraclitus was an ancient Greek philosopher of late 6th century BCE. He coined several infamous phrases, including ‘There is nothing permanent except change’. He is known for his single work ‘On Nature’ of which only fragments have survived. After falling ill with Dropsy (a build-up of fluid in the body’s tissue) Heraclitus buried himself in manure to try and tackle the disease. While bathing in his remedy, Heraclitus, unable to free himself, was devoured and eaten alive by a pack of dogs.
The Torreon Massacre
The Torreon Massacre was a racially motivated attack that occurred in Mexican city of Torreon in 1911. It was an unprovoked act of racial hatred against the Chinese population of the city. Over 300 Chinese residents were killed by the rebel forces of Francisco I Madero in a ten-hour massacre.
Elizabeth Jennings Graham
A free woman residing in New York City, Elizabeth Jennings Graham became one of the first black women to ride a whites-only horse-drawn carriage in 1855. Elizabeth boarded the streetcar but was removed by a police officer through brute force. In response to the injustice, she sued and was awarded money in damages, resulting in the New York State Supreme Court ruling that African Americans could not be excluded from public transit. It took another decade of protests and lawsuits before public transport services were fully desegregated in New York City in 1865.
Indigenous Australian settlements
While school history books rarely cover the issue, several early explorers of Australia wrote of Indigenous villages, agriculture, and irrigation systems existing across the country. The remains of stone houses and an aquaculture system that pre-date the pyramids in Egypt by more than 4,000 years can today be visited in Budj Bim, Victoria. Ancient stone fish traps located in Brewarrina, New South Wales, are possibly the oldest man-made structures on the planet.
Japanese-American internment WWII
After the attacks on Pearl Harbour during World War Two, the US ordered the relocation of 117,000 Japanese-Americans to internment camps across the country, using national security as a justification. It is considered one of the worst examples of civil rights abuse of the 20th century.
Throughout history, many white people have paid money to gawp at Aboriginal people from different regions caged up in atrocious conditions in human zoos. This phenomenon occurred all over the world, including places like the Bronx Zoo as late as the 1920s.