10 5-Paragraph Essay Topics on American Culture

Topics and ideas
Posted on December 4, 2015

If you are writing a 5-paragraph essay on American culture, below are ten great facts you can use in your next essay:

  1. The Harlem Renaissance took place during the 1920s through the 1930s, and is noted as the first point in American history when African-American achievements in art, music, and literature flourished and were widely accepted.
  2. In the early part of the 1900s, the American public was shifting its interests from the “minstrel show” format to that of vaudeville. This created a wave of changes in theater in general, and one of the most interesting was the appearance of African American actors and purely African American “themes”. For example, the 1917 play “Three Plays for a Negro Theater” was a first of its kind and eliminated the stereotypical portrayal of “blackface” in favor of African American actors instead. Many view this as the birth of the Harlem Renaissance which would soon include jazz music, poetry, literature, and various forms of artwork as well. This cultural movement blossomed primarily in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, where a new African American middle class had developed.
  3. The societal shifts that had occurred with the end of slavery (around 1865) and the occurrence of the First World War all laid the groundwork for the coming of this “renaissance” in African American culture. This group of people was often the first generation born after slavery, whose parents or grandparents remembered lives spent laboring on plantations of the Deep South. These people wanted a much higher standard of living for their families, and so they joined in on the Great Migration to northern cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York. Once they were settled, these communities established schools, churches, and other necessary institutions. They still faced racism and segregation, however, and this provided for the emergence of the dominating theme of the art of the Harlem Renaissance, which was a powerful racial pride.
  4. The literature, art, music, and even formal educational pursuits of the time were all influenced by the post-slavery experience. Many characteristics apply to these works, however, and there are combinations of different levels of society all existing in a single genre. For example, jazz was “high culture” and “low life” all at the same time, but it allowed black and white Americans to equally access and comprehend the culture connected to the diverse African American experience up until that point in history. It also allowed all kinds of poetry, plays, music, philosophy and more to enter into the common dialogue and to provide for a widespread acceptance of different art forms. This would have an impact on such things as rock and roll, and even hip hop music too.
  5. Rock and Roll music faced many challenges in its early years because it was created in a time when racial segregation was still very common and overt racism still rampant, and yet it appealed to teens and young adults of all ethnic backgrounds. The American Civil Rights Movement (around 1954) had barely started, but this actually helped to facilitate the spread of Rock and Roll while also aligning more and more young Americans to the fight for equal rights and an end to racism. This is because the genre combines different styles of music that had previously been labeled strictly as “black” or as “white”, but which disappeared when merged into Rock and Roll songs. This sort of amalgamation broke down many social barriers as it also created an entirely new form of music.
  6. Hip Hop is commonly viewed as a subculture phenomenon originating in urban areas during the 1970s, it includes fashion, dance, speech, art, and especially music – the latter usually including a blend of rap, soul, and synthetic or beat box sounds. It is often considered a blend of urban youth culture, music, fashion, language, dance, and more. It is no longer a type of “subculture”, and is instead a totally mainstream issue in most major cities of the world. Modern Hip Hop also includes graffiti art, which is a direct reflection of its urban origins too.
  7. Subculture is a sociological term that describes a group of people with a distinctive culture that generally differentiates them from the larger cultural group to which they belong. Hip Hop is a manifestation of the evolution of urban culture as it has progressed from the more restrictive period of the late 1960s and early 1970s and into the current era. The early days saw influences from African and Latin Americans which focused primarily on the work of disc jockeys in clubs and discos, break dancers, rappers and some graffiti artists. This has since expanded to many different spheres, including fashion, street slang, and even business ideals which have been readily transferred to locations all around the world.
  8. The 1960’s and 70’s flourished in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Rights Movements of the 60s and 70s. It is believed to have reduced gang violence in the inner city areas by pitting teams of dancers, DJs, and artists against one another in totally non-violent ways. Unfortunately, the 1990s saw some shifts in the styles and language of the genre, and a re-emergence of crime, drugs, weapons, and strong language has created some divisions in Hip Hop culture.
  9. Counterculture is more of a social movement than an “institution” and it appeared primarily in the United States and Great Britain during the 1960s. Though living in a post-World War II era that seems to be eternally viewed as a period of middle class and domestic bliss, and one in which “traditional” family life was idealized, those of the Beat Generation, or Beats, experimented with sexuality, religion, and hard-core drugs. They also wrote about their experiences and theories in ways that severely challenged the status quo. They rejected materialism, used obscenity in their publications, practiced alternative lifestyles, and were often seen as the personification of non-conformity and creativity.
  10. William S. Burroughs, Gregory Corso, and John Clellon Holmes among many more emerged during the period following the war which was somewhat challenging for them because most of American society was still seeking a return to the “order” of daily life which the war had so readily disrupted. The Beat Generation, however, developed and thrived because of the equally strong intellectual subculture developing during that period too. This was reflected in the popularity of Beat “prose” which was often set to jazz music, and by the ready acceptance of its various poetry and prose forms, its art, and its developing language. The free use of language and descriptive text led to several obscenity trials targeting specific works, and these seem to really mark the entire movement. The beneficial impact of these negative events, however, demonstrated to society in general that there was far more than a single “language” or approach to communication of new ideas. This led directly to the rapid development of the much broader Counterculture movement which included music, clothing, social behaviors and ideals, and the later appearance of the “Hippy” generation.

These facts perfectly explain the origins of the contemporary American culture that has various embodiments. They will simplify the process of writing for you. Just remember: if you have difficulties selecting the right topic, choose among the suggested ones. If you have troubles writing a 5-paragraph essay, visit our guide. We will help you with any problem – contact our custom writing service.


  1. Anderson, Terry, and Joe P. Dunn. “The movement and the sixties: Protest in America from Greensboro to Wounded Knee.” History: Reviews of New Books24.1 (1995): 15-15.
  2. Braunstein, Peter, and Michael William Doyle. Imagine nation: the American counterculture of the 1960s and’70s. Psychology Press, 2002.
  3. Cook, Bruce. The beat generation. Scribner, 1971.
  4. Hutchinson, George. The Harlem Renaissance in black and white. Harvard University Press, 1995.
  5. McNally, Dennis. Desolate Angel: Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation, and America. Da Capo Press, 2009.
  6. Taylor, Eugene. Shadow culture: Psychology and spirituality in America from the Great Awakening to the new age. Counterpoint, 1999.
  7. Watson, Steven. The Harlem Renaissance: Hub of African-American Culture, 1920-1930. New York, NY: Pantheon Books, 1995.
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