Historical Figures You Didn’t Know Were Actually Terrible People

Charles Lindbergh

When we learn about Charles Lindbergh in history class, all we cover is his historical solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, from Long Island, NY to Paris, France. What you rarely hear is that Lindbergh was actually a terrible racist, and almost everything he did was based in pro-white and isolationist American ideals, even when Europe needed our help in WWII. He accepted the Nazi definition of Jewish in that he considered even Christian descendants of Jews to be Jewish.

In 1939, he wrote, “We can have peace and security only so long as we band together to preserve that most priceless possession, our inheritance of European blood, only so long as we guard ourselves against attack by foreign armies and dilution by foreign races.”

Henry David Thoreau

amous for his transcendentalist beliefs and the experiences that led him to write Walden, it’s hardly ever mentioned what a misanthrope Thoreau actually was. Thoreau was actually a very austere man, against many of life’s pleasures such as drinking alcohol and other such celebratory activities. Though Walden depicts his life in the wilderness, in reality he only lived a short walk from home, in the center of bustling Concord, Massachusetts. He often went home for dinner. Famous for not refusing to pay his taxes, Thoreau came from a wealthy and respected family who paid his taxes for him. This guy was a total snob.
“I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.”

Charlie Chaplin

Who can forget the face and iconic persona of Charlie Chaplin or the impact he had on the early American film industry?

Bet you never knew about his scandalous marriages and *slight* womanizing, though. When Chaplin was 29, he married his first wife Mildred Harris because she claimed to be pregnant with his child. She was 17 at the time, and the couple married quietly to avoid controversy. Turns out she lied about the pregnancy, and they divorced several years later.

History would soon repeat itself when Chaplin got actress Lita Grey pregnant. He was 35 at the time and she was only 16, so he arranged for them to marry quickly in Mexico so that he could avoid statutory rape charges. They had a rough marriage and a very bitter divorce.

When Chaplin was 43, he began a relationship with 21-year-old actress Paulette Goddard. She starred in two of his most famous films, but they ultimately divorced in Mexico.

Chaplin had yet another paternity suit with 24-year-old Joan Barry when he was 54. Barry took Chaplin to court, where he was forced to pay child support for the disputed daughter.

Only two weeks after this paternity suit, 54-year-old Chaplin married 18-year-old Oona O’Neill, daughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill. Although the difference in age is shocking, Oona was Charlie’s great love, and they had eight children together.

Benjamin Franklin

Given the chance, I would LOVE to meet Benjamin Franklin. He’s a founding father of our country and the inventor of numerous contraptions we still use today. Unfortunately, he was also a huge pervert. In his older years, Franklin slept with countless old women and would brag of his elderly exploits.

He even wrote a younger friend a letter about how to choose a mistress that was still censored in the 20th century. Some of his reasons in the letter for sleeping with older women were that there was no risk of a pregnancy, they are more experienced, and they were grateful to be getting any attention from men.

Some reports talk about how Franklin would stand naked in the windows of his Paris home and expose himself to the women who would pass by.

Albert Einstein

It’s no surprise that a genius is going to have some social quirks. When it comes to Einstein, one of the greatest minds of modern times, it turns out he had some very peculiar—and indeed, cruel—rules for his first wife Mileva Maric that he forced her to abide by if she wished to remain married.

Among his misogynistic list of demands were that she always do his laundry and serve him three meals in his room, that she not expect to travel with him or be seen with him in public unless necessary, that she not expect an intimate relationship with him, and that she be obedient to him in front of their children. Sheesh!

Andrew Jackson

You probably have his portrait in your wallet as you read this, but you might reconsider who we adorn the $20 bill with after learning some more about Andrew Jackson. War hero, president, the reason why Florida belongs to the US, and the inspiration for today’s Democratic Party, Jackson did his fair share of good things. He was, however, a hothead who constantly engaged in duels for reasons of pride, and he started the “spoils system” in American government, which has since resulted in immeasurable corruption. Lest we forget that this slave owning president was almost singlehandedly responsible for the American policy of Indian removal, mainly of Native American tribes from the South, resulting in the Trail of Tears and the death of thousands of native peoples.


Without a doubt, Gandhi is one of the most important civil rights leaders in history. It’s difficult to accept that even some of the brightest, purest figures we study and learn to deeply admire also have their darker sides.

Though he made a vow of celibacy in his 30s, Gandhi often tested his moral strength and chasteness by sleeping next to naked women, including his nieces and young girls. Some historians and even some of his contemporaries cite Gandhi as being a celibate sex maniac, although the Mahatma’s writings explain his bizarre practices as the ultimate tests of his faith.

Abraham Lincoln

To this day, Lincoln is revered as one of the greatest presidents in US history. A champion of human rights, moral issues of the day, and political unity, he led the country through its bloodiest war and greatest constitutional threats, helping to modernize the country and, most famously, abolish slavery.

But Lincoln didn’t believe in racial equality. Several historians have pointed out examples of how Lincoln’s abolishment of slavery was simply a political move that conveniently helped him rise to power and stay there. Emancipating the slaves wasn’t a moral issue for Lincoln so much as an economic one. Just take this quote, “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voter or jurors of negroes, or of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.” – 1858.

Sure, people can have a change of heart, and his definitely did more good than harm, but wow. Lincoln is lucky to be remembered for his successes and not his faults.

Laura Bush

Former First Lady Laura Bush did a lot of good during her time in the White House, but she has a dark secret from her past that she has rarely commented on. When she was 17, she was rushing to a drive-in theater with a friend and ran a stop sign. It was dark out and so she never saw the car belonging to a fellow classmate and star athlete, Mike Douglas, who was killed on impact. No charges were ever filed for the incident.

Ted Kennedy

Former Senator Ted Kennedy, youngest brother of former President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, was one of the longest-serving senators in US history, holding his position for nearly 47 years between 1962 and his death in 2009. Though adults today as well as residents of Massachusetts will still remember, Kennedy’s great reputation was forever mired by what’s come to be known as the Chappaquiddick Incident.

In 1969, the senator and and five other married men hosted six young and unmarried women who had worked on Bobby Kennedy’s presidential campaign at a house on Chappaquiddick Island, located on Martha’s Vineyard’s eastern shore. Around midnight, Kennedy announced that he was leaving the party and later stated that one of the girls, 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne, asked for a ride back to her hotel. Interestingly enough, she left her purse and hotel key at the house and told no one that she was leaving.

While driving, the senator accidentally crashed off of a bridge and the car plummeted into the tidal channel. Kennedy was able to swim to safety, but Kopechne drowned, stuck in the car. Kennedy then walked back to the party, claiming that he and his friends tried to rescue Mary Jo. However, they didn’t call the authorities for nine hours. Kennedy received a two-month suspended jail sentence, and this incident is attributed to why he didn’t run for president in the ’70s.

John Wayne

When people think of some of the most emblematic Americans of all time, John Wayne is sure to be one of the names mentioned. The Academy Award-winning actor, director, and producer was a longtime incarnation of staunch American ideals and the rough and tough American way, especially in his Western films. Too bad everybody seems to gloss over the fact that he was very, very racist.

Although he was fluent in Spanish and all three of his wives were of Hispanic descent, the outspokenly conservative Wayne made many infamous comments about African Americans and Native Americans during his lengthy career. In a 1971 interview with Playboy, he said, “I believe in white supremacy, until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from [the Native Americans…] Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”


This Greek philosopher, who died around 430 BC, is credited to this day with laying out the foundations for our understanding of light and vision; the four “elements” of fire, air, water, and earth; that air is a substance and not the lack thereof, among other discoveries and theories. Unfortunately, Empedocles was self-obsessed and believed that he was a god. In fact, he threw himself into a volcano to prove that he was divine or would be reincarnated as a god… it didn’t work out.

Christopher Columbus

He “discovered” America for Europeans, Columbus Day in America is hailed throughout the world as the Hispanic Heritage Day, the country of Colombia is named after him, as is the capital of the United States (District of Columbia), but why are we never taught that this guy was a tyrant and mass murderer?

Columbus was appointed Governor of the Indies after his first voyage, and he ruled Hispaniola and the new world along with his brothers Bartolomé and Diego. Unfortunately, their rulership was plagued with reports of tyranny, torture, violence, and mutilation against native peoples and subordinates. Upon returning home from their third voyage, the Columbus brothers were imprisoned in Spain for six weeks.

1 comment:

  1. Empedocles probably should not be on this list. He was brilliant and in his death he was only proving that we live in a simulation.