Can You Answer These Shockingly Difficult Questions About American History?

By: Bambi Turner
Image: BBC Documentary

About This Quiz

Do you know who America fought in the Revolutionary War, or the name of the country's national anthem? Take our quiz to test your knowledge of the USA!

Just under 5,000 years ago, the Egyptians were crafting the Great Pyramids of Giza; Around 2,200 years ago, the Chinese were building their Great Wall; Close to 1,000 years ago, teaching began at England's Oxford University. When you look at events like these and explore many of the world's best-known civilizations, it's clear that the history of the planet is varied, and in many places, it stretches back for hundreds or even thousands of years.

And then there's the United States. Despite being a world power, the United States didn't even exist as a nation just 250 years ago. It might not seem like very long, but it's important to note just how much can happen in a mere two-and-a-half centuries. Think about it this way -- when the U.S. was in its infancy, your ancestors were probably using outhouses and relying on candles for all their light. A century ago, the average person still didn't have indoor plumbing or electric light. Just 50 years ago or so, people with different skin colors couldn't sit at the same lunch counters. Clearly, a lot can change in a surprisingly short period.

Nowhere is that capacity for change more apparent than in the history of the U.S. While relatively short, it is a long and exciting one, filled with 40+ presidents, multiple wars, moments of pride, tragedy and great cultural change brought about by everyday Americans fighting for their beliefs.

Think you know all there is to know about the history of this great nation? Take this quiz to prove your American history IQ!

What year did Columbus sail the ocean blue?

Contrary to what you may have heard, Columbus didn't discover America. Not only were there several million Native Americans already living here, but Columbus never actually set foot on the land that is now the USA. He was the first European to reach the Americas, sailing on behalf of Spain in 1492.

What year was the Declaration of Independence signed?

The Declaration of Independence was approved by Congress on July 4, 1776. It was signed on Aug. 2 of that year, and declared the U.S. an independent nation.

Who was America fighting in the Revolutionary War?

England wasn't happy when their American colonies declared independence in 1776, leading to a war between the two countries that is known as the American Revolution or Revolutionary War. The conflict ended in 1783 when England recognized America's independence with the Treaty of Paris.

Which of these did not occur during the same time as the American Revolution?

Both Paul Revere's ride and the establishment of the Continental Congress took place around the time of the American Revolution. The Emancipation Proclamation happened around a century later.

Who was the first president of the U.S.?

After he led the Continental Army to victory during the American Revolution, George Washington was a natural choice to serve as the new nation's very first president. He served two consecutive terms, from 1789 to 1797.

Who shot Alexander Hamilton in 1804?

Aaron Burr challenged Alexander Hamilton -- who was the vice president of the United States at the time -- to a duel in 1804. Hamilton accepted and was shot to death. While Aaron Burr's career was ruined by the incident, he was never put on trial for murder.

What tune did Francis Scott Key write in 1814?

As he watched bombs rain down on Fort McHenry outside of Baltimore, Francis Scott Key penned a patriotic poem in 1814. That poem would later become the lyrics to the national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banned."

Why was everyone rushing to California in 1848?

The discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, CA in 1848 totally transformed both the state and the history of the country. More than 300,000 flocked to California over the next few years hoping to strike it rich.

What conflict began in 1861?

The Civil War took place from 1861 to 1865. The first shots were fired at Fort Sumter in Charleston on April 12, 1861 -- leading to a bloody four-year battle between Union and Confederacy.

What did the Emancipation Proclamation do?

Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. The Presidential Order freed all slaves within the Confederacy -- leaving those in the north in limbo.

What year did the War of 1812 begin?

The War of 1812, a conflict between the U.S. and England, took place between 1812 and 1815. The conflict was largely based on the fact that the British Navy was capturing American merchant sailors and forcing them into service against their will.

Who was president of the U.S. during the Civil War?

Abraham Lincoln served as the 16th president from 1861 to 1865, when he was assassinated at a Washington D.C. theater. He is remembered for helping preserve the Union during the Civil War, and also for freeing the slaves.

What country was the U.S. at war with in 1898?

In 1898, the USS Battleship Maine was sunk by the Spanish in Havana Harbor. This resulted in the Spanish-American War, which lasted three months and resulted in Spain ceding a significant amount of land to the U.S.

What year did American women win the right to vote?

American women fought for decades to win the right to vote, which was granted in 1920 with the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

What did Prohibition try to ban?

In 1920, the 18th Amendment took effect, banning the sale of alcohol. It was repealed via the 21st Amendment in 1933, and the entire process has long been considered a massive failure.

What year did the Great Depression begin with a massive stock market crash?

The October 1929 stock market crash was the start of a decade-long economic disaster in the U.S. By 1939, half of all banks had failed and 20 percent of the population was out of work.

What was the name of the program Franklin Roosevelt enacted to end the Great Depression?

Franklin Roosevelt was elected president in 1932, and immediately went to work ending the Great Depression. He enacted a New Deal, in which the government put thousands of men to work on government and civil building projects.

Where is Pearl Harbor located?

On December 7, 1941, Japanese fighters bombed a U.S. military base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. More than 2,400 Americans were killed. The event caused the U.S. to enter WWII.

What was the goal of the Manhattan Project?

The Manhattan Project was a secret project within the U.S. that led to the development of atomic bombs. Two of these bombs were dropped on Japan in 1945, prompting the country to surrender -- and bringing about the end of WWII.

The U.S. fought in a war in this country starting in 1950.

The U.S. entered the Korean War in July 1950 to support South Korean troops -- and ultimately to take a stand against communism. The U.S. withdrew from the war by 1953.

What year was John F. Kennedy assassinated?

President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963 by Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald was killed a few days later by a man named Jack Ruby.

What was Martin Luther King Jr. famous for fighting for?

Martin Luther King Jr. was an iconic civil rights leader who fought for equal rights among all people. He was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968 by James Earl Ray.

What country was the U.S. fighting a major war in throughout the '60s?

More than 3 million people died in the Vietnam War, and half of these were Vietnamese civilians. The U.S. had almost 10,000 troops in the country by 1962, and ultimately more than 2.5 million Americans fought in South Vietnam.

Which of these hot topics was addressed by Roe v. Wade?

Roe v. Wade was a landmark Supreme Court decision from 1973. The decision determined that many efforts by states to restrict access to abortions were unconstitutional.

What did Neil Armstrong do?

The U.S. landed a spacecraft on the moon in 1969, On July 20, Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the lunar surface, and uttered his famous "One giant leap" quote.

Which of these countries is NOT involved in NAFTA?

The North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect on Jan. 1, 1994, ensuring free trade between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. It has been controversial, with some arguing that it helps the economy while others argue that it takes jobs from Americans.

What year did the September 11th terrorist attacks take place?

On Sept. 11, 2001, a group of terrorists hijacked four airplanes. Two were flown into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon, and one crash-landed in a field in Pennsylvania.

Which president is associated with the Watergate scandal?

Richard Nixon served as the 37th president from 1969 to 1974. He resigned from office after he became implicated in a scandal involving a break-in at the Watergate office complex in Washington D.C.

What was the name of the destructive hurricane that struck the Gulf Coast in 2005?

On Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast of the U.S. More than 1,800 lives were lost, and the storm caused more than $100 billion in damage. Flood waters breached the levees in New Orleans and changed the city forever.

What year did the U.S. elect its first black president?

Barack Obama became the 44th president of the U.S. when he was elected in 2008. The former Illinois senator also became the first African-American president in the history of the United States.

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