We would've had a much easier time paying attention during history class if these photos were the ones we learned from. While our teachers taught about some of the moments captured below, these rarely-seen photographs were not part of the lesson plan. But that's because they probably didn't know about them, either. So get ready to witness the past in a new light as you see many of these images for the first time.
A Human Zoo at Coney Island
It pains us to say it, but human zoos did exist, as evidenced by these photos. These images were taken back in 1904 and show some of the 1,300 indigenous Filipinos imported by the US to be displayed in expositions. The captured Filipinos all came from different tribes and were put together in these traveling displays, treated and paraded around like zoo animals.
The idea behind the exhibition was for the US to show off its new 'possessions' in the Philippines. There are so many things wrong with this sentence that we don't even know where to begin - so we won't.
KKK Child in 1992 Rally
This image is as heartwarming as it is heartbreaking. A Ku Klux Klan parent dressed their child in klan regalia. As you can see, the little one innocently toddled up to the black state trooper at a klan rally protest in Gainesville, the US, in 1992. The child isn't scared, and their face isn't filled with hate; instead, the little one looks curious. The picture illustrates that hate isn't something we're born with; it's something that's learned.
We can't help but wonder how this child turned out, as we can only assume they grew up in a family with racist views at its core. We hope they managed to break free!
Woman Is Given "Treatment" for Mental Illness
We thank our lucky stars that when it comes to mental illness, society is much more understanding than it used to be. In most places, medicine and psychiatry have moved on from the abominable treatment that we see this patient undergoing. This image was taken in 1890 at a mental health institution in Germany. This woman was forced to stand in a crucifixion pose, facing what appears to be a stone wall. Unfortunately, this practice wasn't uncommon.
In fact, forced standing was a typical treatment administered to mental health patients in 19th-century Germany. Why anyone would think this was a cure for any form of mental illness is beyond us!
George McLaurin: First Black Student to Attend University Of Oklahoma
Pictured here is George McLaurin at age 54 in 1948. He was the first African-American student admitted to The University of Oklahoma. As you can see, he was forced to sit away from the white students. That's because the University of Oklahoma never wanted to accept him, but they were forced to by the government. And so they let him in but kept him segregated. You can see the other students in the class weren't exactly standing up for him.
We admire George McLaurin's bravery in pushing to attend the university and not letting their racist policies get in the way of his education. Still, he should have never had to show this much courage.
Croatian Soldier Writers: If I Die Young Send Me to Heaven - In Hell I Have Already Been
This image is of a Croatian soldier. He's sat in front of a wall with writing on it. When translated into English, it says: "God, If I Die Young, Send Me To Heaven, In Hell I Have Already Been." Despite scouring the internet, we're not sure whether he wrote the message himself or whether it was one of his comrades. But either way, it speaks volumes about the conditions these soldiers faced.
When you look closely at his eyes, they're haunting. He looks like a young person who has seen and lived through a lot of trauma.
Rescue Dog Being Moved Away From the World Trade Center
Amidst the terror, fear, and death that resulted from the September 11 terrorist attacks, it's heartwarming to see that a rescue dog was successfully saved from the debris of the World Trade Center. The furry friend seen below was just one of many sent to find survivors amidst the rubble. Apparently, the dogs taking part in this rescue mission got depressed because they found so many people who had passed away.
So what did their handlers do? They periodically hid in the rubble for them to 'find' to keep their morale up. The dog seen above looks so brave as he's soaring through the air!
Martin Luther King Jr. Removing a Burnt Cross From His Yard
As you might recognize from this photo, this is Martin Luther King Junior. The little boy pictured with him is his son. King is pulling up a cross that was set on fire on the front lawn of his Atlanta home. One night the Atlanta Ku Klux Klansmen went on a tirade and placed burning crosses in the gardens of the homes of several black families, including Martin Luther King Junior.
This incident occurred in April 1960. Could you imagine how terrifying it would be to see a group of hateful strangers trespassing onto your family's property with a burning cross?
Blanche Monnier - The Aristocrat Imprisoned by Her Own Family
This picture is evidence of a pretty dark story. The lady in this photo is called Blanche Monnier. She was a woman from Poitiers in France. She was secretly kept locked away in a small room by her mother and brother. Astonishingly, she was imprisoned for a staggering 26 years. Eventually, she was found and rescued by the police - but she hadn't seen daylight for that entire time! So why did they lock her away? Not that any explanation would actually justify it.
Apparently, at 25, Blanche wanted to marry an older lawyer. Blanche was from an aristocratic family, and her mother detested the thought of her marrying a "penniless lawyer." As a result, she imprisoned her daughter - a gross overreaction spun out over two decades of cruelty!
Magdalene Asylum: Where Women Who Didn't Conform Were Sent to Do Forced Labor
This might be one of the more well-known images on this list. But, if you haven't seen this snapshot before, it's an image of women working in one of the Magdalene asylums, also known as the Magdalene laundries. These were deemed places of "reform" for women that didn't fit society's ideals. The most renowned Magdalene asylums were located in Ireland. Unfortunately (but not surprisingly), these institutions' staff were notorious for treating these women and girls horribly.
Most of the staff at these asylums were nuns. It's estimated that at least 10,000 victims were detained, forced to work for free, and subject to psychological and physical abuse at these "asylums."
Zyta Sus, One of the "Desirable" Kids Kidnapped by the Nazis
This isn't a picture of an ordinary little girl - it's a photo of a child called Zyta Sus. She was just one of the hundreds of thousands of children kidnapped by the Nazi regime. When the Nazis invaded Poland, they would kidnap "desirable" kids. Typically, these were children with 'Aryan' traits like blonde hair, blue eyes, white skin, etc. After the war, she was given a new identity.
She was then taken to an orphanage and given up for adoption. Sadly, she was never reunited with her biological family. It's every parent's worst nightmare!
Little Girl Carrying Brother Walks by Tanks Fighting in Korean War
If you ever needed something to give your own life a sense of perspective, this image should do it. When we first saw this photo, we were speechless; it's hard to find the words to describe the sheer adversity that the photographed Korean girl and her baby brother faced. We really don't know, and we can't imagine. At this moment, they were seen tiredly walking by stalled M-26 tanks in Haengju, Korea, in 1951.
Could you imagine how terrifying it must be to walk past such a massive weapon in an active warzone? It must take extreme courage and tenacity to keep going.
Prisoners at a Concentration Camp in Austria
This image from 1945 is absolutely haunting. Here we see a group of prisoners at the Ebensee concentration camp. It's harrowing to see the maltreatment that these poor men endured; all of them are skeletal. They're clearly starved, and none seem to have sufficient clothing. They must be freezing and in utter agony. It's hard to imagine how anyone survives and overcomes such suffering; these survivors are a true inspiration.
Photos like this serve as a stark reminder of how important it is that we never forget the atrocities of the holocaust so that, as a society, we ensure that horrors like this never happen again.
Mugshots of Two Men Caught Getting Intimate With One Another, Sweden, 1897
The two men in these mugshots were imprisoned for having an intimate relationship with each other. This image was taken in Stockholm, Sweden, back in 1897. Although today, lots of countries have legalized being gay and celebrate gay marriage and LGBTQ+ rights, in many countries, this still isn't the case. In fact, in some places, it's still illegal to be openly gay - in certain regions, it carries the death penalty!
It's sad to think that in some places, we've not progressed since the 1800s. We wonder whether these two lovers found each other after their imprisonment and what became of their lives upon release.
A Depressing Sign During the Great Depression
We really hope the start of the placard is this man's idea of gallows humor. But given what we know about the Great Depression and its devastating effect on so many families in the US, we're fearful that this man's request was genuine. As you can see, the sign, made in 1932, says: 'WANTED URGENTLY a strong rope to hang myself. Alternatively unfurnished accommodation for my wife, unborn child and myself.'
We're not sure who this man was or what became of him and his family, but we really hope that someone helped him find his latter request rather than the former.
Workers Packed Into a Coal Mine Elevator
This photo does an excellent job of showing the extremely harsh conditions that Belgian coal miners endured. Here we see men packed into a coal mine elevator like sardines. They're waiting to be brought up out of the pits after a hard day's work. This snapshot gives us a sense of the dirty, dark, and cramped working environment that the miners were subject to back in 1900 and for some time after.
After spending hour upon hour below ground, we can only imagine how much of a welcomed relief it was to come up, see daylight, and breathe in some fresh air!
Nazi Rally in NYC's Madison Square Garden
This eerie black and white photo is a snapshot of a Nazi rally that took place in New York City's Madison Square Garden in 1939. Shockingly, it was attended by around 20,000 Americans. Unsurprisingly, this event is largely forgotten from US history. After all, who wants to reminisce about the fact that thousands of Americans celebrated the rise of Nazism before the US began fighting in World War II? It's as chilling as it is uncomfortable to acknowledge.
Until today we didn't know this event took place, did you? A quick scout around the web tells us that the German American Bund organized this event, and Fritz Julius Kuhn was a speaker. Terrifying, right?
The 'Slave Bible' Taught Slaves to Obey
It's honestly sickening that the bible would be edited and manipulated to support and facilitate a racist and brutal agenda, but that's exactly what happened. Pictured here is a Bible that was specifically written for Caribbean slaves. It excluded entire Bible sections that mentioned freeing slaves, equality, and our duty to love and care for foreigners. Needless to say, this was done to communicate a very specific, oppressive message to slaves.
Even the most famous bible stories, like Moses leading the Israelites from slavery out of Egypt, were omitted. Upon further research, experts reckon that approximately only 10% of the old testament and roughly only half of the new testament made it into this "bible."
Wedding Party Near Chernobyl Unknowingly Breaths Radioactive Air
Most of us have, by now, seen images of the tragedy that was Chernobyl. On April 26, 1986, an accident in the town's nuclear plant resulted in the city's demise. Only now, over forty years after the disaster, are radiation levels at a normal and tolerable range. At the time of the accident, the place was inhabitable, and survivors came away with long-term health effects. But what about the people around Chernobyl?
The photo above captures a happy wedding party shortly after the incident. The group has no idea that they are breathing in toxic chemicals and radiation from the accident in the town next door.
The Selection Process for the Gas Chambers
This sobering photo sends shivers down our spine. Pictured here is a large crowd of Hungarian Jews waiting to see if they'll be selected by the Nazis to be sent to their death in the gas chamber. This photo was taken at Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944. Could you imagine these poor people's confusion, panic, and fear? Upon closer inspection, you can see a woman carrying a baby in the front right of the photo.
We can't help but wonder whether the baby made it out alive. Were they spared, and if they did, what became of them? We hope they survived but couldn't remember the horrors of the concentration camp.
Hiroshima Wristwatch Stopped at the Exact Time the Bomb Was Dropped
This photograph of a wristwatch has a super creepy vibe to it - and for a good reason. This watch was found in Hiroshima in August 1945. If you look closely at the water face, you'll see that the hands stopped at 08:15 am - the time the atomic bomb was dropped. We wonder who this watch belonged to and whether they managed to survive the disaster. It's a stark reminder that people were going about their regular daily routine.
Tragically, they had no idea about the danger that would befall them. The burn shadow of the small hand, which rests on the "8," makes it look like it's the big hand.
Women Using Toxic Radium Paint Without Protection
Often called the Radium Girls or "Ghost Girls." Their work involved painting watch dials with self-luminous paint that contained radium. Although the women were told it wasn't dangerous, that was far from the case. Discovered just 20 years before this 1922 image was taken, radium's impact was not well known. Nevertheless, the women were hired because the work was detailed, and their small hands were thought to be well-suited for the job.
The women were exposed to radium dust, causing their clothes, hair, and skin to glow. They were even instructed to use their lips to give paint brushes a more refined point, so the women also ingested the toxic element.
Otto Frank Returns to the Place Where His Family Hid From the Nazis
This picture has a solemn feel, and you'll soon understand why. The man in the photo is Anne Frank's father, Otto. You might have read excerpts from her diary during history class when learning about World War II and the Holocaust. This image was taken in 1979 when he revisited the same attic where he and his family hid away from the Nazis. Next to him is Queen Juliana of the Netherlands.
Sadly, Otto was the only member of the Frank family to survive the horrors of the concentration camps. He made this visit to the attic, along with the royal member, in honor of what would've been Anne's 50th birthday.
A Nuclear Detonation Test in the 1950s
Pictured here is the exact moment a test nuclear detonation occurred in the 1950s. It was skillfully captured by Harold Edgerton's rapatronic camera. This camera had a shutter speed of one hundred millionths a second exposure. Harold Edgerton was poised with a ten-foot lense seven miles away from the blast. The fact the photographer was literally miles away speaks to the colossal nature of the explosion. It looks like he's right in front of it!
Apparently, a nearby tree was vaporized within microseconds - again, as with many of the other photos in this list, we get another insight into the destructive potential of the atomic bomb.
Chinese Soldiers Begging to Live
The pain on the faces of these men is excruciating. It's a stark reminder of the cruel and unnecessary suffering that humans have inflicted on one another for centuries. Pictured here are captured Chinese soldiers begging for their lives in Korea in 1951. But, despite spending a fair amount of time on the internet trying to find out more about this image, we couldn't find anything! So, we turned to the comments on the original post.
One commenter suggests this image could have been taken at Compound 76 of Camp One, Koje-do. This was located on a 150-square-mile island situated around 20 miles off the coast of Korea. If anyone knows more about this image, we'd love to hear from you!
Nagasaki's Atomic Bomb Attack
The picture of this mushroom cloud is nothing short of jaw-dropping. Could you imagine witnessing the sheer scale of this destruction first-hand? We couldn't even imagine how frightening an attack like this would be. As you may have already guessed, this is a picture of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki in Japan on 9th August 1945. It killed around 73,000 people and destroyed two square miles of land.
Japan’s Emperor Hirohito described this weapon as “a new and most cruel bomb.” However, despite the widespread destruction caused by the bomb, today, the radiation in Nagasaki is extremely low.
Red Rebels Shot Down During Finland's Civil War, 1918
Pictured here are a couple of fearful-looking red rebels being executed by a firing squad in Varkaus. The scene is terrifying. The events captured in this particular snapshot occurred during the Finnish civil war in 1918. This war resulted from a conflict between White Finland and the Finnish Socialist Workers' Republic (AKA Red Finland). The cause of this turbulence happened while Finland was transitioning from a grand duchy of the Russian Empire to an independent state.
This chilling image prompted us to research these events in more detail. These kinds of killings committed by the White forces were dubbed 'The White Terror,' of which there were a staggering 7,263 cases!
Woman in Berlin Wall's West Side Waits to See Her Family in East Berlin
Pictured here is the back of a woman standing at the former Berlin wall with her hands raised. More specifically, she's in the West Sector, having waited three hours to see her friends and relatives living in East Berlin. Unfortunately, despite trawling through the internet, we couldn't find any information about who this woman actually was. But, what we do know is that this image was snapped in 1961 by American photographer Dan Budnik.
Despite the apparent hope this woman has, the barbed wire, the grey concrete, and even the cloudy-looking weather (although, as the image is in black and white, it's difficult to tell!) all communicate a desolate, sad scene.
Rings Stolen From Holocaust Victims
If only this were just a tray of beautiful rings - but this isn't the case. Sadly, it's a photo of some of the few thousand wedding bands the Nazis stole from Holocaust victims. US troops discovered these near the Buchenwald concentration camp on the 5th of May 1945. It's devastating to think that each of these rings was worn by a real-life person who was most likely petrified of what awaited them.
It wasn't just these rings that the soldiers found. They also discovered watches, precious stones, eyeglasses, and, arguably the most disturbing, gold fillings that had been plucked from people's jaws.
Australian Soldier Carries Comrade During World War II
Photographed here is an Australian heroically carrying a wounded comrade to the safety of the hospital. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (AKA ANZAC) was a First World War army corps formed in the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, assembled in Egypt. These soldiers pictured here were said to be a part of ANZAC. This particular incident happened on the beaches of Gallipoli in Turkey. This military disaster was incredibly gruesome.
We hope that this service person made it to the hospital okay. We can't even imagine the bravery and tenacity it would take to struggle across a battlefield with a wounded friend on their back.
Troops Coming Into London as Kids Are Evacuated
We don't know about you, but we found this image absolutely heartbreaking. Taken sometime in the 1940s, it's a snapshot of troops arriving at Waterloo railway station in London, the UK. While at the same time, children are being evacuated out of the capital for their safety. This image really highlights the painful reality of war: so many families were split up during WWII, and everyone of every age was impacted.
We cannot help but wonder whether the soldiers and the kids in this photo felt fear and trepidation as they embarked on their next chapter and what became of them.
Racial Segregation in Oklahoma
Unfortunately, during the early to mid-twentieth century, the majority of US states practiced racial segregation that was enforced by 'Jim Crow' laws - which is nothing short of abhorrent. Sadly, in this photo, we have a real-life example of this in front of us. Here we see separate drinking fountains for 'colored' people that a Black man is drinking from. This particular one was at a streetcar terminal in Oklahoma City.
Sadly these racist laws were enforced as late as 1965. That means there are people alive today, and people's parents and grandparents that can most likely remember a time when these appalling laws were in place!
Flash Burns in Hiroshima
This image is one of the creepiest photos on this list. If you're wondering what you're looking at, it's a nuclear shadow on the steps of the Sumitomo Bank Company in Hiroshima after the bomb dropped. If you look closely at the steps, you can see a dark flash burn of someone's legs and a lighter silhouette of a torso and head on the wall. Clearly, someone had been standing in this very spot before the bomb dropped.
It is a sobering and terrifying thought that all that remains of this soul is a shadow. It also speaks volumes about the level of devastation atomic bombs can cause.
The First Atomic Bomb
Pictured here is the first ever atomic bomb, dubbed 'The Gadget' in 1945. We don't know about you, but we're not sure how the guy in the picture can be standing so casually with his hand on his hip so close to this deadly weapon! As you'll see throughout this list, we've included plenty of pictures of the devastation atomic bombs cause. If it were us, we'd be running for the hills!
We don't know much about engineering, but we think it's safe to say that the person configuring all those cables must have been breaking a sweat - we certainly would have!
KKK Rally in Washington, DC
Pictured here are the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) boldly parading on Pennsylvania Avenue in their full garb. This photo makes our skin crawl. It's uncomfortable to look at not only because of all of the atrocities the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) has perpetrated and the values they stand behind but because this was in 1928 - which, when you think about it, isn't that long ago. It's less than a century!
As you can see, it seems like the majority of klan people pictured here are women. One of which is proudly flying the American flag - which, to be honest, terrifies us!
Hitler and Fellow Nazis in Paris
If you're unsure what you're looking at here, take a closer look. Second on the right-hand side, as you look at the screen walking in the front row is Adolf Hitler. The rest of the men are said to be his entourage. Then, of course, as you can see, the stunning Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, stands boldly in the background. Following the Nazi occupation of France, this image was pictured on June 23th, 1940.
Interestingly, legend has it that in the act of defiance, locals cut the tower's lift cables so that Hitler and his cronies would have to climb the stairs to access the tower!
Korean Children Emerge From Their Hiding Place
Seeing photos of war is pretty much always tragic. Sure, there can sometimes be a sense of pride, but above all is the sense of violence and death that emanates from these photos. Naturally, seeing wartime photos involving children is the worst - but an important reminder that the way adults choose to act will affect generations of children moving forward. The photo below reminds us of just that.
Whoever took this historic picture captured a member of The Royal Australian Regiment waving to a group of Korean children just after they came out of their hiding places. The kids were hiding as enemy forces were cleared out.
Areal View of DC's KKK Rally
This Ku Klux Klan (KKK) parade happened on 13th September 1926, in Washington DC, the US. From this birdseye view, it looks like hundreds of klan members attended this parade. We're not sure about you, but there's something about this aerial shot that better showcases their tightly formulated rows and organized parade structure that's all the more terrifying! By the mid-1920s, the KKK comprised several million members. By this point, all manner of despicable crimes had been committed in the name of their heinous views!
Think unlawful hangings, floggings, mutilations, tarring and featherings, kidnappings, and acid throwing - to name just a few of the kinds of crimes they committed; the KKK was a menace to law and order. So to see so many people come together to support such a horrendous cause is alarming - to say the least!
58,307 Dog Tags of Soldiers Who Never Returned From Vietnam
This art display consists of 58,307 hand-stamped replicated dog tags of US soldiers who lost their lives during the Vietnam War. You can see this exact display (The National Veterans Art Museum's exhibition Above & Beyond) on the third floor of the Harold Washington Library in Chicago. And located near this monument is a kiosk where visitors can look up the names of the soldiers and the location of their dog tags on the display.
Of course, the Vietnam war and continues to be incredibly controversial. But regardless, for those families that lost loved ones in the war, we think this is a lovely tribute that hopefully brings them some peace.
British Children Wait for Help Outside Their Bombed Home
Once more, the photo below reminds us that the horrors of war affect not just the adults sent to fight but the innocent children caught in the middle of it all. Here we see three siblings sitting outside what not too long ago was their home in a London suburb. But after an overnight raid by the Nazis, their home became nothing but a pile of debris.
Hopefully, the three children pictured here ultimately made it safely through the war and grew up to be adults with long and happy lives.
Ukraine - History in the Making
Although this technically isn't history yet because the Ukraine war continues to rage on, there's no denying the Ukraine/Russian war will appear in our children's future history books. The picture below shows a child on a swing outside what was a residential building until shortly before this photo was captured. A missile damaged the structure and made it unlivable. The contrast between the swing and the destroyed building is heartbreaking and strange to see.
This photo was taken in February 2022. It might appear in public school history books twenty years from now. Isn't that strange to think about?