Ideas, Beliefs, and Culture

Kate Little

Gabriella Mercogliano

AP U.S. Themes

Ideas, Beliefs, and Culture


  • Common Sense (1776):

-A bestselling pamphlet by Thomas Paine that suggested that the American colonies declare independence from Britain. According to Paine, relations between Great Britain and the colonies could only get worse.

-Put the thought of revolution into many people’s heads, and giving them a moral and logical reason for a revolution. Paine helped to make people see that there was not a “single advantage” in “being connected with Great Britain.”

  • Popular Sovereignty (1850’s):

-A compromise measure proposed by Lewis Cass on the question of slavery in the newly acquired territories. He came up with the idea that the question of slavery should be left to the people of a particular territory.

-Showed a possibly more democratic solution to the slavery issue that allowed people to decide for themselves whether or not slavery was morally correct.

  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852):

-Anti-Slavery novel written by Harriet Beecher Stowe about one slave’s suffering as he moves southward. Written in response to tightened slavery laws.

-Hugely influenced the way that Americans responded to slavery. Eventually was a contributing factor to the start of the Civil War.

  • Manifest Destiny (1845):

-A term coined by an 1845 newspaper article that captured the enthusiasm of the westward expansion movement, implying that the U.S. settle the entire continent.

-Gave Americans a divine reason to take the economic opportunities afforded to them by the west, such as cheap land and precious metals.

  • The British Invasion (1960’s):

-A series of British bands, most notably the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, transformed American culture, taking inspiration from the rich traditions of African-American music and mixing it with youthful energy.

-Created a cultural backlash from conservative Americans, who were troubled by their long hair, allusions to drug use, and interest in Eastern religions. This also fostered a change in the younger generation, making them more and more encouraged to challenge traditional notions of decorum.

  • Roe v. Wade (1973):

-The court declared that states could not prevent women from having an abortion during the first two trimesters of pregnancy. Previously the decision had been left up to the states, and many states forbade abortions.

-Changed cultural values about women and rights of privacy, allowed women greater freedom to control their own bodies and overall health.

  • The Feminine Mystique (1963):

- Helping to inspire the women’s liberation movement, the book challenged the traditional options in life offered to middle-class women. Betty Friedan went on to found that National Organization for Women (NOW), the leading liberal organization supporting women’s rights.

-Paved the way for changes in cultural values regarding women, leading them to have greater career opportunities as well as more rights regarding their health and their place in American life.

  • Freedom Rides (1961):

-A series of bus rides through the South to challenge segregation on interstate bus routes. In protest of the continued use of Jim Crow laws even though the Supreme Court had ruled against them.

-Removed some racial resentment and showed the continued demand of African-Americans for the rights that they deserved. Helped to show that on this issue, whites and blacks would eventually be equal status citizens.

  • The Peace Corps (1961):

-Embodied Kennedy’s sense of idealism and his commitment to service. Established in 1961 to assist underdeveloped countries in Africa, Latin America & Asia.

-Proved to change lives in America by exposing Americans to other cultures, creating a less isolationist feeling among both politicians and the everyday citizen.

  • Space Race (1961-1969):

-A race between the U.S. and Russia that involved technological advancements. It began when the Soviets launched their satellite Sputnik and ended when the U.S. put a man on the moon.

-Inspired the public as well as creating a positive mood regarding the U.S.’s place in foreign affairs. It also helped to cement cultural interest in the sciences.