Historic Figures Who Were Secretly Terrible People
Historic Figures Who Were Secretly Terrible People

Historic Figures Who Were Secretly Terrible People

Shannon Quinn - March 6, 2023

Historic Figures Who Were Secretly Terrible People
Dr. John Kellogg. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

John Kellogg Was a Racist Who Tried to Prevent People From Having Intimate Relations

If the name John Kellogg sounds familiar, it’s because his brother William was the founder of Kellogg’s Cereals. John was a doctor who opened the Battle Creek Sanitarium. This was a place for wealthy people to help improve their health. Kellogg is credited as being the founder of the “wellness” industry. He wrote a book called Plain Facts About Sexual Life, where he stated that people should never fornicate, unless they wanted to make babies. He also believed that self pleasure was evil, so he recommended circumcision for men and young boys. Young girls were also circumcised by pouring acid on their privates. John Kellogg was incredibly racist, despite the fact that he fostered several black children in his home. He was pro-segregation, and started an organization called the Race Betterment Foundation. This promoted eugenics to erase non-white people from the gene pool.

Historic Figures Who Were Secretly Terrible People
Photo of Henry Ford. Credit: History

Henry Ford Was Incredibly Anti-Semitic, and Spread Hate Across the World

Most people remember Henry Ford as the founder of the Ford Motor Company. He was the first to automate making cars on an assembly line. This helped a boom in production of automobiles through the United States. However, few people realize that Henry Ford was actually anti-semitic. In 1919, he bought a newspaper called “The Deerborn Independent”, and used the paper to slander Jewish people. The newspaper became popular, and they soon had 1 million subscribers. In 1920, Ford wrote a book called The International Jew, which sold 2 million copies around the globe. Even Adolf Hilter once said, “I regard Henry Ford as my inspiration.” Once word got out, people began to boycott Ford vehicles. So he stopped publishing the newspaper, and in 1927, he came out with a public apology to save the company. Even so, his hateful book is still circulated to this day.

Historic Figures Who Were Secretly Terrible People
Actor Charlie Chaplin and his wife Lita Grey. Credit: Page Six

Charlie Chaplin Got a 15 Year Old Girl Pregnant

Actor Charlie Chaplin is remembered as being one of the greatest actors of the silent film era. He was famously known for his character called The Tramp, wearing a bowler hat and a tiny mustache. But fewer people know the fact that he pursued 12-year old Lita Grey, who he met on set of a movie they did together called The Kid. He got her pregnant when she was 15, and married her at 16. Marlon Brando once said that Charlie Chaplin was one of the cruelest men he had ever seen. They did a film together called A Countess From Hong Kong. Charlie would beat and humiliate his son Sydney in front of the cast and crew. Lita would later divorce Chaplin, and she wrote an autobiography called My Life With Chaplin.

Historic Figures Who Were Secretly Terrible People
Marlon Brando, sitting on the porch, during the filming of”The Men”. Credit: Static

Marlon Brando Mistreated Women Both on and Off Screen

Speaking of Marlon Brando, it’s ironic that he was criticizing Charlie Chaplin, because he was known for being a monster himself. Rita Moreno was in an 8-year long relationship with Marlon Brando, and she says that he treated her so badly, she attempted suicide because she wanted to escape the pain. One of his co-stars, Maria Schneider, also felt incredibly violated by Marlon Brando when they worked together filming a movie called Last Tango in Paris. There is a scene in the film that was not in the script, where Brando assaults Schneider. She was not told about this ahead of time, which makes the assault very real. Later, Schneider said, “I was so angry. I felt humiliated and to be honest, I felt a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci.”

Historic Figures Who Were Secretly Terrible People
Portrait of Andrew Jackson. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

President Andrew Jackson Was a Racist Who Was Responsible For “The Trail of Tears”.

The 7th President of the United States was “Old Hickory” Andrew Jackson. He is celebrated so much today, that his face appears on the $20 bill. But in reality, he was a very cruel person. He was a slave owner and obvious racist. Jackson also signed a bill called the Indian Removal Act. This forced thousands of Native Americans to leave their homes and relocate to designated “Indian Territory”. It resulted in the Trail of Tears where thousands of people had to walk hundreds of miles on foot to Oklahoma. They walked while wearing chains, and the government did not give them any food or supplies for the journey. So thousands of people died along the way. The land that once belonged to the Native Americans was stolen by the federal government and then sold to white people.

Historic Figures Who Were Secretly Terrible People
President Woodrow Wilson. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Woodrow Wilson Was Very Racist and Popularized Segregation in the United States

The 28th US President, Woodrow Wilson, is remembered for a variety of accomplishments, including winning a Nobel Peace Prize. However, most people ignore that he was a huge racist. As soon as he became President, he immediately segregated all federal offices, and publicly called black people an “ignorant and inferior race”. In 1914, he even threw a Civil Rights leader named William Monroe Trotter out of the White House. This began a ripple effect across the whole country. Now, private businesses were also opting to segregate. And with a racist President in office, it only gave other Americans justification for being vocal about their own racism.

Historic Figures Who Were Secretly Terrible People
Portrait of President Thomas Jefferson. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Thomas Jefferson Got a Teenage Slave Pregnant

As one of the Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson is considered to be the main author of the Declaration of Independence. He would later go on to become the 3rd President of the United States. But the truth is that Thomas Jefferson impregnated one of his slaves, a 14-year old girl named Sally Hemings. She was half-white herself, being the illegitimate daughter of Jefferson’s father-in-law, John Wayles. Jefferson’s family tried to deny this for centuries, but it was later confirmed through DNA in 1998. They had 6 children together, and 4 survived to adulthood- Beverly, Harriet, Madison, and Eston. He eventually freed all of the children. Three of the kids were so light-skinned that they were able to “pass” as white people. They went on to live normal lives in white society. However, he never freed Sally. When Jefferson died, she was finally able to leave Monticello.

Historic Figures Who Were Secretly Terrible People
Inventor Alexander Graham Bell. Credit: ThoughtCo.

Alexander Graham Bell Advocated For Not Allowing Deaf People to Get Married or Have Children

Most people know that Alexander Graham Bell was the inventor of the telephone. But fewer people know that he was a teacher for deaf people. His own mother was hearing-impaired, and he even married a deaf woman named Mabel Hubbard. However, he believed that deafness was a “contamination” of the human race. He believed that deaf people would give birth to deaf children, and that it would spread through the population. In 1883, he presented a paper called Memoir Upon the Formation of a Deaf Variety of the Human Race. He suggested that deaf people should not be allowed to get married. (Which is hypocritical, since he married a deaf woman and had four children with her.) And he did not want people to use sign language.

Historic Figures Who Were Secretly Terrible People
Writer Rudyard Kipling. Credit: The Poetry Foundation

Rudyard Kipling Was Pro-Colonialism & Pro-British Empire

People remember Rudyard Kipling as the author of The Jungle Book, which went on to inspire the beloved Disney film. In 1907, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. As a child, he grew up in both India and England. But during his lifetime, he was a racist and a huge advocate for Colonialism. He is the one who came up with the phrase “the white man’s burden”, which is the belief that it’s white people’s moral duty to conquer non-white races and teach them about civilized society. Some people try to defend Kipling, saying that this thought process was normal back then. Almost all British people felt that way, not just him. Interestingly enough, he did end up moving to the United States, and married a woman from Vermont.

Historic Figures Who Were Secretly Terrible People
Credit: Apple Insider

Steve Jobs Was a Huge Jerk and A Terrible Dad

A lot of people look up to Steve Jobs as being the genius co-founder of Apple. But he was known for yelling and cursing at employees and friends alike. One time, he even berated an elderly Whole Foods employee. In his personal life, he denied being the father of his daughter, Lisa. She and her mother had to live on welfare because of it. He was sued for child support, and forced to take a DNA test. Even then, he did not spend much time with Lisa, and did not help her out financially until she was much older. Something else that rubs people the wrong way is that he refused treatment for his pancreas cancer. Ashton Kutcher tried to do the same all-fruit diet while filming the Jobs biopic, and he ended up in the hospital because his pancreas started to shut down.

Historic Figures Who Were Secretly Terrible People
Inventor Thomas Edison. Credit: History

Thomas Edison Stole Ideas and Electrocuted Animals

In every history class in America, Thomas Edison is revered and misattributed as the inventor of the lightbulb. He actually bought the rights to make the lightbulb from the actual inventors, Henry Woodward and Matthew Evans. In reality, he stole a lot of his ideas from other scientists, like Nicola Tesla. One awful, but accidental thing that Edison did was run X-Ray experiments on his assistant, Clarence Dally. They had no idea of the dangers of radiation poisoning, so Clarence ended up with burns and sores all over his body. Arguably the worst thing about him was that he killed many animals with electricity. In 1903, Edison filmed a demonstration on electrical currents at the Luna Park Zoo in Coney Island, New York. He electrocuted and killed an elephant named Topsy, just to make a point.

Historic Figures Who Were Secretly Terrible People
Explorer Christopher Columbus. Credit: History

Christopher Columbus Enslaved Indigenous People

Growing up, you were probably taught that Columbus “discovered” America. In reality, he wasn’t actually the first person to discover America. And on top of that, he was a downright terrible person. Columbus and his crew took many of the native peoples they encountered as slaves. Many of these people were forced to work under inhumane conditions. His men engaged in violent acts against the native peoples, including murder, rape, and torture. The arrival of Europeans in the Americas led to the spread of diseases that the native peoples had no immunity to. This led to devastating epidemics that wiped out large numbers of the indigenous population. Columbus was primarily interested in exploiting the resources of the Americas for the benefit of Spain. All of these reasons are why we are trying to change it to “Indigenous People’s Day” rather than Columbus Day.

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So It Turns Out Marlon Brando Wasn’t Great to Women. Inside Hook. 2022.

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Alexander Graham Bell and Deafness. Jamie Berke. Verywell Health. 2022.

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