The Most Significant Historical Events That Our History Teachers Didn’t Tell Us About

Some of the ruins from the Tulsa Race Massacre in June 1921, when white vigilantes set the Oklahoma city’s African-American district ablaze. Credit…Bettmann Archive/Getty Images.

Alby Thompson

Updated 2020 Jun 23

Some historical events you wish you’d learned about in school.

History often gets a bad rap among students. Because it deals with events hundreds or even thousands of years in the past, it can be difficult to make its lessons seem relevant to modern times. This may also be because some of the most interesting, heartbreaking, and bizarre historical events are not taught in school at all.

Whether dealing with sensitive racial topics or complex, multi-generational dynasties of foreign lands, many of the things you didn’t learn in history class are still affecting the world of today. One Redditor asked the r/History subreddit for some of the most significant historical events that are unfairly ignored. These are the top responses.


The Tulsa Race Massacre Of 1921

From Redditor u/brothermuffin:

I attended public school and private university in the USA and NEVER heard mention of the Tulsa Massacre.

From Redditor u/AndrijKuz:

Fun fact, being from Tulsa, this was absolutely *buried* city-wide for about 80 years. I only heard about it in 10th grade in High School. Apparently virtually every prominent city official was a member of the KKK and there was a region-wide cover up. They even cut out article[s] from the Tulsa World from the archives. Also, historical estimates are probably low, and there might still be 3 separate mass graves in the center of the city.

From Redditor u/bocepheid:

I’m a transplant in Oklahoma, lived here a long time but had never heard of it until one of my students asked about it as a research topic. After reading that paper I made several pilgrimages to Tulsa to see what I could learn there. As it turns out, almost nothing. The city whitewashed it thoroughly. An incredible, thriving community, destroyed.


Important omission from history books?

From Redditor u/wampusboy:

The smallpox pandemic that devastated the Native Americans. The disease swept through the population so fast, that almost all contact with Native American cultures were basically with post-apocalyptic societies that were thrown into chaos. Something like 99% of them were dead by the time Europeans even made it far enough to contact them. Smallpox is literally the only reason Europeans were able to colonize North America. History classes just treat it like a single event among many, when it was a history-defining event. The Native American cultures we think we know were just the shattered remnants of what they were before.


Important omission from history books?

The Interwar Period (1918-1939)

From Redditor u/tom_the_tanker:

The period directly following the First World War, 1918-1924, should be a chapter equal to the war all on its own. It was an earthshaking period in Europe, America and Asia, and sowed the seeds for everything from the modern protests to 9/11 to the Soviet Union to fascism to the Troubles to the Yugoslav breakup.

Essentially, the collapse of four Empires in Europe, the emergence of communism and fascism, disease, disillusionment and economic catastrophe probably caused more deaths than WWI and did more lasting damage psychologically and socially

From 1917-1924 you had:

  • Spanish Flu [Ed. Note: Actually originated in Kansas, USA]
  • Global economic crisis
  • Irish War of Independence
  • Allied occupation of the Ruhr/German passive resistance
  • Rise of Mussolini in Italy
  • Civil War/failed socialist revolution in Germany
  • Hitler’s Beer Hall putsch
  • Hungary is communist for like a year
  • Romanian invasion of Transylvania
  • Polish war of independence against Bolsheviks and Germans
  • Baltic wars of independence, along with proto-fascist Freikorps running around
  • Ukraine tries to become independent, overrun by Bolsheviks
  • Finnish War of Independence
  • Serbian conquest of modern Yugoslavia
  • Allies try to carve up Turkey, resulting in Turkish War of Independence
  • Arab revolts throughout Middle East
  • creation of Saudi Arabia
  • Caucasian states try to become independent, crushed between Bolsheviks and Turks
  • “Red Summer” of race violence and Tulsa Race Riot in America
  • Women’s suffrage achieved in America
  • Red Scare in Europe and America
  • Uprising against Spanish in Morocco
  • Emergence of modern Zionism
  • And, of course, the Russian Revolution and Russian Civil War, which almost no one in the West really knows much about and is horrifically misunderstood, and almost certainly killed more Russians than WWI.

So yeah, it was chaos and the immediate post-World War I era is almost never featured or understood in the regular curriculum. It needs at least a chapter in every high school history textbook.


Important omission from history books?

South East Asian History In General 

From Redditor u/dhalsim282:

The entirety of South East Asia was sorely neglected in my history studies growing up in the US. We learned a little about Japan in WW2. There was cursory Chinese history, different dynasties and such. That was about it. “Indians” still referred to Native Americans half the time in my school. I remember actually correcting a teacher on that and being scolded for it.

I only recently learned that India was a huge factor in WW2, about 3 million Indians died. They fought both the Japanese on the Eastern front and Germans on the western. This is in contrast to 380,000 US soldiers dying, and about 400,000 British. No one ever gives the Indians a word in WW2 history.


Important omission from history books?

The Reconstruction Era (1865-1877)

From Redditor u/centaurquestions:

Reconstruction after the US Civil War. They had ten years of trying to enforce a racially equal society, and then there was a white supremacist terror campaign and the government abandoned the project.


Important omission from history books?

The Acadian Expulsion (1755-1764)

From Redditor u/Curtdragoon:

The Acadian expulsion. Similar numbers/percentages of Acadians were killed as native Americans during the trail of tears. Thousands of some of the oldest families of European descent in the new world displaced from their lands by force. Families set adrift on rafts without sails, compasses or provisions. Just a horrific event in North American history that is never mentioned even in college history classes.


Important omission from history books?

From Redditor u/rokossovskys_teeth:

In the US, the Eastern Front of WW2.

In high school, we were taught that there was fighting there, mostly in a place called Stalingrad, and that the Red Army helped us win the war. That’s about it.

9 out of 10 German soldiers who became casualties in WW2 did so fighting the Russians. Germany poured the overwhelming weight of their resources into [Operation] Barbarossa, and it cost them everything.

I understand why we downplayed it for so long- they were our sworn enemies during the Cold War, and we basically sided with one REALLY bad guy to help beat another REALLY bad guy, but their sacrifice and massive contribution went largely unknown in the US to a lot of people.


Important omission from history books?

Late Antiquity (AKA The Period Between The Fall Of Rome And The Middle Ages)

From Redditor u/monet_420:

Late Antiquity (previously know as the Dark Ages). We teach people about Romans and then we teach kids about the Middle Ages and we forget that gap in between. But that gap is so important. Think of the things that emerged from Late Antiquity. The merger of Roman and [Germanic] political culture that produced what we now understand as kingship, the political boarders [sic] of Europe, the [languages] of most of Western Europe and the Americas, Islam and the demarcation of East and West. All these have rippling consequences to this day.


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  1. Roy July 17, 2020

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