520 Excellent American History Topics & Tips for an A+ Paper

How can you define America? If you’ve ever asked yourself this question, studying US history will help you find the answer.

This article will help you dive deeper into this versatile subject. Here, you will find:

  • Early and modern US history topics to write about. We’ve also got topics for DBQ essays for students taking an AP US history class.
  • Tips on how to create a great history paper.

But first:

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🔝 Top 10 American History Topics

  1. The ideology of the Black Panthers
  2. How did tenements affect America?
  3. Why was Wilmot Proviso so controversial?
  1. What characterizes the Roaring Twenties?
  2. Cause and effect of the Missouri Compromise
  3. The role of women during the Great Depression
  4. Did anyone profit from the 1929 Stock Market Crash?
  5. Michael Collins’ contribution to the space exploration
  6. How did the US benefit from the Bracero Program?
  7. Brigham Young’s contribution to the development of the West

✅ How to Write a History Paper

History writing is controversial by nature. Selecting questions and topics is already a subjective process. On top of that, you need to interpret the sources. So, there is much to think about when it comes to history papers.

We’ve compiled several tips to make it easier for you. Check it out:

  • Don’t be afraid to disagree. People explain many issues by conventional wisdom. Be skeptical and examine your own bias.
  • Explore new terrains. Not all historical events get the attention they deserve. Writing about generally neglected topics can yield fascinating results.
  • Consider how situations change over time. Frame your subject with a start- and endpoint.
  • Wonder. History is not just descriptions of what happened—it also questions how and why specific events took place.
  • Avoid relating everything to the present. Examine the past on its own terms. In doing so, keep the chronological order straight.
  • Don’t judge your subject. Your goal is to understand the past. Remember: moral norms might have been different in the period you’re studying.
  • Give context. It’s crucial to engage with and interpret your sources. Pinpoint their place in the grand scheme of events.

Finally, you might want to write in the present tense. While this works for other social sciences, it’s not advisable for history. It’s best to keep the past in the past! Also, if you need to construct a MLA title page, there’s nothing wrong in using a specialized tool to do that, as long as it allows you to concentrate on the more important part—writing.

⭐ Top 10 US History Topics to Research

  1. What caused the Red Scare?
  2. What did the Loyalists fight for?
  3. Literacy rates during Puritan times
  4. The effects of the Great Awakening
  5. Why was the Boston Tea Party justified?
  6. The aftermath of the Battle of Bunker Hill
  7. Why was presidential Reconstruction a failure?
  8. The causes of the economic recession of the 1780s
  9. Railroads development role in the Industrial Revolution
  10. Frederick Douglass’s contribution to the abolition of slavery

🦅 Essay Topics on US History before 1865

The period of colonial America is packed with turmoil. Think of the Boston Tea Party or the American Revolution. And these are only two of that era’s most notable events. In this rubric, you’ll find colonial American history essay topics. The period in question starts with the British arrival in the New World and ends with the Civil War.

  1. The origins of Thanksgiving. One idea is to find out why the Pilgrims started celebrating it in the first place. Alternatively, you could examine how it became a national holiday.
  2. Why did the British begin settling in the New World? This topic allows you to explore the rivalry with Spain. Or you could investigate England’s problem with poverty.
  3. Discuss the emergence of joint-stock companies. Who profited from them? What is their legacy? You might also want to study their role in early settling attempts.
  4. Compare and contrast the Jamestown and Plymouth settlements. You can concentrate on areas such as religion and government.
Barack Obama quote.
  1. Why did Americans start revolting? An excellent place to begin might be America’s position in global power struggles. The impact of the European Enlightenment movement is also something to consider.
  2. The history of African American culture. Ask yourself these questions: How does it differ from the way it is now? What factors influenced its development?
  3. What problems arose during the drafting of the Constitution? You might want to write about the economic crisis. Other important factors include different interest groups and their expectations.
  4. How did the American Revolution influence society? Your essay can be concerned with its immediate or long-term impact. Find out how women, slaves, and other groups reacted to the revolutionary spirit.
  5. Consequences of the Royal Proclamation of 1783. American settlers didn’t obey the proclamation, but it still proved to be influential. Your paper could discuss why. Perhaps you’d also like to ponder if it was a good idea.
  6. The role of nationalism in the westward expansion. Explore how Americans justified their belief in Manifest Destiny.

Don’t forget to check out these essay topics on early American history:

  1. Why did the settlers start importing slaves?
  2. How did Texas become a sovereign republic?
  3. Why was the American Revolution successful?
  4. Discuss the significance of the Louisiana Purchase.
  5. What events led to the war of 1812?
  6. How did the French Revolution impact America?
  7. Describe the changes the American Revolution brought to the states.
  8. What did “American” mean in the 18th century?
  9. The role of the Sons and Daughters of Liberty in achieving unity.
  10. Why was the right to bear arms included in the Bill of Rights?
  11. The first President of the United States.
  12. Investigate the origins of the two-party system.
  13. Alexander Hamilton’s financial policies: opposition and political consequences.
  14. How did Washington, DC become the national capital?
  15. Trace the Lewis and Clark expedition.
  16. Analyze the importance of cotton for the South’s economy in the 1800s.
  17. How did the relations between the settlers and Native Americans develop over time?
  18. Who formed the abolitionist movement, and why?
  19. How did Kansas become a battleground for proponents and opponents of slavery?
  20. Who were the Border Ruffians?
  21. What was the Compromise of 1850?
  22. Consequences of the Mexican-American war.
  23. Long-term influences of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
  24. Compare the real Underground Railroad with the Underground Femaleroad in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
  25. The Declaration of Independence and its legacy.
  26. What did the philosophy of transcendentalism entail?
  27. Abigail Adams and the fight for women’s rights in the new republic.
  28. Who was Daniel Shays?
  29. Trace the ratification process of the United States’ Constitution.
  30. What problems arose with the Missouri Compromise?
  31. The revival of religion in the US after achieving independence.
  32. How did the mass immigration of Germans and Irish people impact the US?
  33. Nativism in the US: riots and the politics of the Know-Nothings.
  34. How did the South and the North respectively argue for and against slavery?
  35. Investigate the emergence of the “Old American West.”
  36. Study the connection of the blue jeans’ invention with the California gold rush.
  37. Describe a day in a life of a slave.
  38. Why was the Dred Scott Decision significant?
  39. How does the 1860 election relate to the southern states seceding from the Union?
  40. Explain the term “popular sovereignty.”

⚔️ Civil War Topics for Your Paper

In the pre-war period, tensions in the US over state rights and slavery were high. The differences seemed impossible to overcome. Eventually, this led to several southern states seceding from the Union. What followed was the bloodiest war ever to take place on American ground. In writing about the Civil War, you can explore military, political, and social issues.

  1. Did the South ever have a chance to win? The conflict seemed to be heavily in favor of the more industrialized North. Still, it took four years of fighting to get the South to surrender. Your essay could examine the South’s underestimated strengths.
  2. Compare and contrast the South’s and North’s economic situation on the eve of the Civil War. You might want to investigate the following questions: What did they produce? How did this influence the decision to wage war?
  3. How did the Emancipation Proclamation affect the war? You could focus on the contributions of African American soldiers.
  4. Discuss the fatal mistakes made on the battlefields of the Civil War. What decisive moments impacted its results the most? Your paper might explore what the generals could have done differently.
  5. Was the Civil War inevitable? It may be interesting to contemplate a possible compromise. In doing so, think about whether this would have merely delayed the war.
  6. The general public’s position on the Civil War. It might be compelling to analyze who supported the effort and why. One focal point could be on differences between social classes.
  7. The role of beliefs during the Civil War. You could investigate what the South and the North respectively held sacred. Were religious beliefs a crucial motivator for one or both sides?
  8. The “Angel of the Battlefield”: Clara Barton. An essay could analyze how she contributed to the recognition of women’s war participation. It could also examine how it forwarded the struggle for women’s rights.
Clara Barton.
  1. What were the political reasons to fight the Civil War? Investigating this question might yield surprising insights.
  2. Contrasting Stonewall Jackson and Ulysses Grant might be engaging for those who are interested in military strategies.

Do you want more? Have a look at the following topic samples for high and middle school students:

  1. Analyze why Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address became a critical moment in American history.
  2. Was the Civil War justified?
  3. Why was Fort Sumter relevant?
  4. How did the Civil War battles impact the American social sphere?
  5. What does the notion of the “Lost Cause” mean?
  6. Would the election of a different man other than Abraham Lincoln as president have prevented the Civil War?
  7. Why did many former slaves enlist in the Union army after the Emancipation Proclamation?
  8. Describe the consequences of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.
  9. Why was slavery essential for the South?
  10. Foreign US policy during the 1860s.
  11. European reactions on the American Civil War.
  12. How did Jefferson Davis’ government differ from Abraham Lincoln’s?
  13. Analyze the notion “A rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.” Why was this especially true in the South?
  14. Why did the Union rely heavily on blockades to weaken the Confederation?
  15. Examine how Mary Boykin Chesnut’s A Diary from Dixie reflects on the war.
  16. How did the war affect life in the South vs. the North?
  17. Investigate the events that led to the Union victory in 1864-65.
  18. Was the abolitionist movement the catalyst for the war?
  19. The impact of industrialization on the battlefield.
  20. What technologies emerged during the Civil War?
  21. Discuss the societal effects of war photography.
  22. How did the Civil War affect the many immigrants who recently entered the United States?
  23. Did the American Civil War impact the rest of the globe? If so, how?
  24. Can one consider Abraham Lincoln one of the best presidents in American history? If so, why?
  25. Compare and contrast the most important generals and their tactics.
  26. Debate the influence of Manifest Destiny on exacerbating tensions.
  27. What states were devastated the most after the war, and why?
  28. Describe the South’s and North’s goals during the Civil War.
  29. What does the term “Bleeding Kansas” mean?
  30. Newspaper coverage of the Civil War in the South vs. the North.
  31. Analyze various letters to understand how people from different backgrounds perceived the Civil War.
  32. Art and theater in 1860s America.
  33. Debate how sectionalism and protectionism contributed to pre-war tensions in the US.
  34. Why did the Crittenden Compromise fail?
  35. How did the border states perceive the battles of the Civil War?
  36. Explore the war contributions and legacy of Mary Edwards Walker.
  37. The importance of the US navy in leading the Union to victory.
  38. What happened on the West Coast during the Civil War?
  39. Trace a timeline of the Civil War’s key battles.
  40. Nation-building and national identity: how did the Civil War shape the idea of “Americanness”?

🛠️ Essay Topics on Reconstruction & Industrialization

After the war, industrialization was rapidly changing the American landscape. Additionally, restoring the order after years of fighting proved a challenge. In abolishing slavery, Republicans took the first step to ensure constitutional rights for African Americans. But not everyone shared the same viewpoints. Dive deeper into these confusing times with one of our topics on American history before 1877:

  1. Why did scholars initially view the Reconstruction Era in a bad light? When answering this question, you can focus on the idea of “Black Supremacism.” You also might want to analyze what compelled them to shift their perspective.
  2. Another option is investigating what caused Reconstruction to fail. You can further argue where it succeeded and perhaps offer a new interpretation.
  3. Maybe you’d prefer an essay on why the Reconstruction Era mattered. This topic allows you to highlight crucial contemporary debates still relevant today.
  4. Tracing the origins of the Ku-Klux-Klan has much to offer. You can link this topic to today and question if handling them has changed.
  5. Why did President Johnson veto the enactment of the Civil Rights Act in 1866? It might be interesting to contrast his political reasoning and his personal beliefs.
  6. Compare the phases of Reconstruction. How did the concept change from Lincoln’s initial plans to President Johnson’s execution?
  7. How did urbanization affect American life? Your paper could contrast life in the city and the countryside. You can take economic, social, and health factors into account.
  8. How did the American landscape change during industrialization? You might want to examine city growth and architecture.
  9. The invention of electricity was one of the most important events in human history. It might be compelling to wonder what side effects its implementation had.
  10. Why not investigate the symbolism of skyscrapers? Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead is a fascinating source for this subject.

But wait, that’s not all of it. We’ve got more, including topics on American history since 1877:

  1. Did the situation for freedmen improve after Reconstruction?
  2. How did industrialization affect African Americans?
  3. Discuss what consequences the Compromise of 1877 had.
  4. The role of transportation during industrialization.
  5. How does an assembly line work?
The first ever assembly line was installed by Henry Ford.
  1. The invention of the automobile.
  2. Describe in what ways mass production affected American society.
  3. What was the Panic of 1873?
  4. Long-term effects of Plessy v. Ferguson.
  5. How did the Freedmen’s Bureau help former slaves?
  6. Why did rebuilding the South prove so difficult?
  7. Debate the effects of the print revolution on American society.
  8. What was the primary goal of Reconstruction?
  9. How did the Reconstruction Act affect politics in the South?
  10. What caused the formation of Radical Republicans?
  11. The transformation of leisure in late 19th century America.
  12. Analyze why landownership was a crucial issue in establishing African American equality.
  13. Was President Johnson’s attempted impeachment in 1868 justified?
  14. How did the US government help exacerbate the wealth gap in the late 19th century?
  15. What changes did transcontinental railroad transportation bring?
  16. How did John D. Rockefeller influence the American economy?
  17. The role of oil in industrializing America.
  18. Discuss the relevance of the Great Upheaval.
  19. Changing gender roles in times of urbanization.
  20. Industrialization and Education: obstacles and opportunities for women and African Americans.
  21. Analyze how industrialization and urbanization in the USA challenged old values.
  22. How did the American newspaper business change in the 19th century?
  23. The impact of sensationalism on the American public.
  24. Why did steel become such a crucial material during the late 1800s?
  25. What caused the Reconstruction Era to come to an end?
  26. How did contemporary cartoons attempt to depict the mood during Reconstruction?
  27. What problems did Ulysses S. Grant have to face with his administration?
  28. Compare and contrast reconstruction measures in various states.
  29. Why did cities become increasingly attractive for America’s rural population in the 19th century?
  30. Examine the significance of the Slaughterhouse Cases.
  31. Determine the difference between Presidential Reconstruction and Radical Reconstruction?
  32. From the black code to Jim Crow: institutionalized racism in the southern states.
  33. The combined rise of populism and imperialism in the 1800s.
  34. Discuss the significance of regional differences during industrialization.
  35. The impact of labor unions on the American work environment.

🗽 20th Century US History Topics to Write About

By the turn of the century, the US was a significant global player. Events such as the Great Depression affected the whole world. In addition, American contributions to the arts changed the cultural sphere forever. If you’re looking for modern US history thematic essay topics, this section is for you.

  1. Why did the “final frontier” gain such importance in the 20th century? Your essay could examine if the space race was an extension of Manifest Destiny.
  2. How did the Titanic’s sinking influence innovation and safety regulations? The ship was the biggest and most technologically advanced ocean liner at the time. Carrying over 2000 passengers, it sank on its maiden voyage. Investigating its legacy might yield fascinating results.
  3. How did progressivism shape the political landscape in America at the turn of the century? In the early 1900s, the USA was almost a different country than it was 50 years prior. How did this happen? And who were the leading figures of this process?
  4. Are you curious about the development of American workplace laws? Write about the consequences of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.
  5. If you’re into corporate history, look into the rise and fall of America’s formerly largest retailer, Sears.
  6. The real William Randolph Hearst vs. his portrayal in David Fincher’s Mank. This topic allows you to combine film theory and the history of American journalism.
  7. The impact of Citizen Kane on movies around the globe. To this day, Citizen Kane is considered one of the most influential films ever made. In a paper on the 1941 masterpiece, you can focus on what made it special. Which features are still prominent in cinema today?
  8. How did the eugenics movement affect American society? You might want to investigate marriage laws or forced sterilizations.
  9. Consequences of the Spanish-American War. The brief battle didn’t last long, but its impact was immense. Your essay could highlight the war as a stepping stone to making the US a global power.
  10. Escalating racial violence: The Rosewood Massacre. In 1923, the entire town of Rosewood, Florida, was wiped out by white aggressors. How did racial tensions get so far?

Haven’t found anything yet? Here are some other American history thesis topics for you to explore:

  1. The impact of the Cold War on the American economy.
  2. What caused the Great Depression?
  3. Ellis Island as a beacon of hope for immigrants and refugees.
  4. The transformation of the American school system in the 1920s.
  5. What were pop art’s main concepts?
  6. Moral vs. political considerations during the annexation of Hawaii.
  7. Who were the Social Gospel preachers?
  8. John Dewey’s role in advancing education.
  9. What sources fueled American progressivism?
  10. Trace the timeline of Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency.
  11. What was laissez-faire capitalism?
  12. How did President Woodrow Wilson reform businesses?
  13. A dive into the speakeasy culture.
  14. How did the widespread availability of cars impact American dating life?
  15. Prohibition: reasons and consequences.
  16. Connecting arts and civil rights: The Harlem Renaissance.
  17. Al Capone and the rise of organized crime in the 1920s.
  18. What was the New Deal, and why was it necessary?
  19. How did FDR’s “Alphabet Agencies” help the economy after the Great Depression?
  20. Explore the funding of the UN.
  21. Discuss the significance of the Berlin Airlift.
  22. Screen rebels: how James Dean and Marlon Brando changed American cinema forever.
  23. Find a connection between McCarthyism and the Salem Witch Trials.
  24. How did affordable television perpetuate the idea of the ideal American family?
  25. Analyze the political consequences of the Watergate scandal.
  26. A new American culture: variety shows in the 1950s.
  27. The origins of Rock’n’roll.
  28. What caused the US to slide into inflation in the 1970s?
  29. Counterculture literature in the middle of the century: The Beat Generation.
  30. The aftermath of the Vietnam War.
  31. What made John F. Kennedy a popular president?
  32. The development of Hippie culture in the 1960s.
  33. Reproductive rights and the rise of American feminism in the late 20th century.
  34. Intertwining show-business and government: Ronald Reagan’s presidency.
  35. Outline the tactical maneuvers of Operation Desert Storm.
  36. How did MTV revolutionize the music industry?
  37. Why did drug use become an existential problem in America during the 1970s and 80s?
  38. American environmental reform policies from 1960 to 1980.
  39. ’70s fashion as a social and political statement in the US.
  40. How did the sexual revolution redefine American social life?

🔫 Topics about America in World Wars I & II

America during the World Wars is an engaging writing prompt. But it may be too broad for an essay. That’s why it makes sense to narrow your focus. Which area do you find most interesting about the subject? For example, you can choose between culture, economy, technology, and, of course, the military.

  1. Repressions and progress went hand in hand in the postwar US. Writing about the impact of WWI on domestic American politics would give you various directions to research.
  2. President Woodrow Wilson was against entering the war until 1917. What events led the US to break its neutrality?
  3. Many Germans of the time called the Treaty of Versailles a “dictate of shame.” It is often considered a significant reason for World War II. What was the US’ position on the Treaty of Versailles?
  4. After WWI, America followed isolationist politics. Until 1941, when they declared war on Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Could the USA have stayed out of WWII?
  5. How did WWII affect the American economy? Think about military needs and rationing.
  6. President Woodrow Wilson was a fierce supporter of the League of Nations. But congress coerced him not to have the USA join. Should America have become a member of this organization?
Woodrow Wilson quote.
  1. How did American civilians contribute to the war effort? Your essay can focus specifically on women. Be sure to examine new arrangements in daily life.
  2. If you’re more into art, why not analyze how the world wars influenced American art?
  3. WWII changed all aspects of American life, including their diet. What new methods of food preservation emerged during that time?
  4. Another fascinating topic to engage in is propaganda and advertisement in the US during WWII. Your focus might lie on how they targeted different members of society.

Don’t forget to read the rest of our topics on this issue:

  1. Evaluate Woodrow Wilson’s 14 points program.
  2. How did the American army recruitment work in WWII?
  3. “Kilroy was here”: examine where the mysterious slogan comes from.
  4. Outline the history of Japanese Americans in Japanese internment camps.
  5. US spies: where and how did they operate?
  6. The Manhattan Project: trace the making of the atomic bomb.
  7. How did migration shape American society in the 1930s and ‘40s?
  8. The notion of freedom in America before, during, and after the wars.
  9. What role did communication play for the military in WWI vs. WWII?
  10. Canadian-American relations during WWII.
  11. How did the wars spur transportation developments in the US?
  12. Discuss the significance of D-Day.
  13. Could the allies have won WWII without the USA?
  14. Why did America emerge as a “Global Policeman” after the world wars?
  15. The effects of National Socialism in America.
  16. In what ways does the outcome of WWII still influence American society today?
  17. Compare and contrast military strategies in Europe vs. the Pacific.
  18. Was the dropping of the atomic bomb necessary?
  19. After the Little Boy’s devastating results, why did the American government decide to drop Fat Man?
  20. What made the Zimmerman telegram such a central document for American war participation?
  21. What happened to prisoner-of-war camps in the US after the fighting was over?
  22. Compare the leadership styles of Franklin D. Roosevelt in WWII and Woodrow Wilson in WWI.
  23. Why did the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor?
  24. What methods did the American government use to conceal their operations?
  25. Growing up in the ‘40s: how did the war impact the manufacture of toys?
  26. Which medical advancements were helpful to American soldiers in WWII that didn’t yet exist in WWI?
  27. How did the 1940s fashion in the USA reflect the global situation?
  28. Did the two world wars change the civil rights situation for African Americans? If so, how?
  29. How did the war affect employment in the US?
  30. What was unique about the Higgins boats?
  31. The role of submarines in WWI.
  32. How did America cooperate with the allied forces in Europe in WWI?
  33. Discuss how the American citizens reacted to being drawn into WWI vs. WWII.
  34. Did anyone in the US profit from the wars? If so, who?
  35. Describe how American families changed during WWII.
  36. What stories do letters that soldiers sent to their families back home tell?
  37. Joseph Heller’s depiction of World War II in the novel Catch-22.
  38. Compare and contrast memory culture concerning WWII in Russia vs. the USA.
  39. How did the perception of America on the global stage change after World War I?
  40. The role of women in the US military.

☮️ Essay Topics About the Civil Rights Movement

The struggle for African American equality finally intensified in the 1950s and 60s. Influential figures such as Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks emerged. Their resilience inspired countless others. Seventy years later, the fight is far from over. The rights of minorities and people of color are still a crucial topic in American society today.

  1. Nine months before the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat to a white woman. Yet, Rosa Parks is the one commonly associated with sparking the event. Why is Claudette Colvin often ignored in history?
  2. Everybody knows Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr, but who were the Civil Rights Movement’s lesser-known figures? Start your research with Aurelia Browder and Susie McDonald.
  3. Which concepts and themes can you find in Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have A Dream speech? One idea is to focus on how he expresses hope and freedom for black Americans.
Martin Luther King Jr Quote.
  1. Which committees and organizations were central to the Civil Rights Movement’s success? Discuss the roles of the SNCC, CORE, and NAACP.
  2. What makes Malcolm X a controversial figure? Be sure to mention his nationalist ideas and membership in the Nation of Islam.
  3. The Little Rock Nine: what made their integration into Little Rock Central High School difficult? In your research paper, you can write about harassment issues and military intervention.
  4. What did the Civil Rights Act of 1957 change? On the one hand, you can talk about the history of voter rights. On the other, you might want to investigate how the public reacted to the new law.
  5. If you prefer personal stories, you can trace Ruby Bridges’ experiences. She became famous as the first black person to go to an all-white school. She’s still alive today.
  6. History can be ugly. If you’re not afraid to encounter violence during your research, check out the Freedom Rides. How did they help attract international attention to the Civil Rights Movement?
  7. Consequences of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Did the movement die with him? How did the government respond?

Are you curious for more? Have a look at these prompts:

  1. Compare the modern Black Lives Matter movement with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
  2. What did the Black Panthers party achieve?
  3. The best way to teach about the Civil Rights Movement in 8th grade.
  4. What happened at the Greensboro sit-ins?
  5. Why did the civil rights activists encounter so much violence, even though they mostly protested peacefully?
  6. Compare and contrast Gandhi’s methods and those of Martin Luther King Jr.
  7. Why was Bloody Sunday a crucial moment for the Civil Rights Movement
  8. What was the “long, hot summer”?
  9. Examine the creation of the Kerner Commission.
  10. The role of students in advancing civil rights for African Americans.
  11. What rights did black Americans gain through the Civil Rights Movement
  12. Describe the Nation of Islam’s goals.
  13. Who were the members of the Black Panther Party?
  14. What distinguishes the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s from previous movements to establish more rights for African Americans?
  15. Give a brief overview of the most important Supreme Court decisions concerning the struggle for equality.
  16. The importance of the church for the Civil Rights Movement.
  17. Compare the effects of various marches for freedom.
  18. What made Martin Luther King Jr. a great leader for the movement?
  19. How did the murder of Emmett Till affect the public’s view on segregation and racism?
  20. How did the press support or hinder the Civil Rights Movement?
  21. Loving v. Virginia: legacy and contemporary significance.
  22. What did the notion of “miscegenation” entail?
  23. What were the Jim Crow laws?
  24. Describe the goals and achievements of Operation Breadbasket.
  25. Who was Stokely Carmichael?
  26. Analyze Ralph Abernathy’s autobiography And the Walls Came Tumbling Down. Why do some people consider it controversial?
  27. Debate the criticism brought up against the Congress of Racial Equality.
  28. Why did some civil rights activists in the 1960s radicalize?
  29. Did the election of Barack Obama mark the end of the struggle for equal rights?
  30. Discuss the success of the Baton Rouge bus boycott.
  31. What events led to Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing of the Voting Rights Act?
  32. Examine Coretta Scott King’s career after her husband’s passing.
  33. Investigate conspiracy theories concerning James Earl Ray’s role in the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
  34. The publishing and writing process of Malcolm X’s autobiography.
  35. How and why did the 2020 election undermine parts of the Voting Rights Act?
  36. Is studying the Civil Rights Movement still relevant today? If so, why?
  37. How did CORE help desegregate schools in Chicago?
  38. Who is Jesse Jackson?
  39. Contemporary commemoration of the Civil Rights Movement.
  40. How did John F. Kennedy’s death impact the Civil Rights Movement?

💬 Debatable US History Topics to Research

Controversy has been a constant companion of American history. And it’s not only questionable segregation practices that are up for debate. Women’s and LGBT rights, as well as welfare programs, are issues still unresolved today. If you want argumentative or persuasive essay topics about American history, check out this section.

  1. Memories are always socially constructed. “How do various communities around the US perceive monuments of slaveholders?” is an engaging question to explore in your essay.
  2. In 1995, an exhibition at the Smithsonian centered around the Enola Gay sparked a nationwide controversy. Critics said the exhibit focused too much on the Japanese suffering the nuclear bomb dropped from the aircraft caused. Was that criticism justified?
  3. In the past, Colonial Williamsburg’s issues with slavery were often overlooked. Instead, when creating and developing the historical site, the focus lay on its democratic values. Is Colonial Williamsburg still a good place to learn about American history?
  4. What does the Liberty Bell stand for today? You can include recent and older controversies surrounding the location and custody of the bell.
  5. Tracing the history of LGBT rights will yield many debatable insights. Which court decisions would you consider especially controversial, and why?
  6. The legacy of the Centralia massacre in 1919: are the events linked to the Red Scare? How did the town try to obscure the truth?
  7. In 1887, President Eisenhower supported a campaign to promote patriotism. Part of this was the addition of “under God” to the American Pledge of Allegiance. Analyze the debates surrounding the issue.
  8. The history of prostitution laws in the US. Your thesis could suggest a connection between decriminalizing sex work and the workers’ wellbeing.
  9. In the 2020 election, several states voted to legalize not only marijuana but also other drugs. History shows many movements to legalize recreational drug use. What was different now?
  10. Many older Disney cartoons depict racist stereotypes. The question of adjusting them to modern values sparked much debate. Using this discussion to explore how America should deal with problematic media from the past might be promising.

Keep reading and discover more controversial United States history topics.

  1. Did President Barack Obama deserve his Nobel Peace Prize?
  2. What did the US gain from the Iraq War?
  3. Would Germany have won WWII without America’s intervention?
  4. Should the presidents of the previous century have done more to promote animal rights?
  5. Given its historical context, should we keep celebrating Thanksgiving?
  6. Why did it take so long for American women to achieve legally equal rights?
  7. Find historical reasons why the US never instituted universal healthcare.
  8. The necessity of cow’s milk in America: past vs. present.
  9. Was the annexation of Puerto Rico justified?
  10. Did the Chicano Movement achieve positive changes for Mexican Americans?
  11. John F. Kennedy’s most controversial presidential actions.
  12. The ratification of the 8th amendment.
  13. Was the government’s response to 9/11 justified?
  14. The role of faith in American history before 1877 and after.
  15. Who or what caused the US’ drug overdose epidemic?
  16. HIV/AIDS denialism in America in the 1990s.
  17. What should Locust Grove do to restore its deteriorating African American cemetery? Can the place be considered a historical site?
  18. Why did some states introduce felon disenfranchisement in 1792? Did the new law spark any outrage?
  19. Trace the historical timeline of the same-sex marriage debate.
  20. The USA has always been a country of immigrants. How did this lead to immigration being a fiercely discussed topic nowadays?
  21. How did the US contribute to the current instability in the Middle East?
  22. Was the “Lost Generation” reckless?
  23. How do US historians influence public opinion?
  24. Does the Red Scare reflect on Russian-American relations today?
  25. Should Bill Clinton have stayed in office?
  26. Discuss the benefits of being a hippie in the 60s.
  27. Can the members of the Beat Generation serve as role models for travel enthusiasts today?
  28. Roe v. Wade: what made the court case a turning point in the fight for women’s reproductive rights?
  29. Did American feminism become too radical by the late 19th century?
  30. The rise and fall of DDT: Why was it allowed in the first place?
  31. What should US history education for high school students look like?
  32. From a historical perspective, does the reality in Watchmen seem like a likely scenario for the future?
  33. Psychiatric methods in early 1900s America.
  34. The role of performance-enhancing drugs in the history of American sports achievements.
  35. Why do some people believe that the moon landing was staged?
  36. Criticism against Ayn Rand’s objectivism and its influence.
  37. Before opening America’s first women’s hospital, gynecologist J. Marion Sims experimented on slaves. Should he still be celebrated as the ‘father’ of modern gynecology?
  38. Is the notion of “American Century” accurate?
  39. American exceptionalism in the 20th century vs. now.
  40. Has technological innovation always been beneficial for the American public?

✊🏿 Black History Topics for an Essay

African American experiences are still very different than those of their white compatriots. That’s why it’s crucial to analyze people of color’s perspectives of and contributions to history. Black history includes thematic topics on education, society, and culture.

  1. Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave adapts the 1853 memoirs of Solomon Northup. Though the film doesn’t shy away from brutal images, critics argued it was too soft. Should film writers surrender accurate historical representation to make their content more accessible?
  2. After the Civil War, slavery was officially banned in the US. Still, the South continued to find ways to exploit black labor. Examine the consequences of new methods such as convict leasing and sharecropping.
  3. Many of those who opposed slavery complied with the system by staying silent or inactive. What did this mean for the reality of African Americans? Why didn’t these people stand up?
  4. A paper on what caused the Red Summer of 1919 can focus on the South to North migration of African Americans during WWI.
  5. In the 20th century, the Great Migration relocated many African Americans. How did this event impact the development of black culture? Your paper could concentrate on art movements or political activism.
  6. The GI Bill promised financial benefits to veterans. But former black soldiers didn’t profit as much as their white compatriots. To analyze a concrete example of racist inequality, you can write about how the GI Bill affected African American veterans.
  7. For decades, American universities did their best to keep African Americans from receiving higher education. How is education inequality still impacting black students today?
  8. After WWI, Tulsa was a prosperous city home to the so-called “Black Wall Street.” Then the Tulsa Race Massacre happened, and the area was left in shambles. Explore the moving history of Tulsa’s Greenwood District.
  9. Do you want to investigate the powerful interplay between cinema and reality? Dedicate your essay to the connection between D.W. Griffith’s 1915 picture The Birth of a Nation and the Ku Klux Klan’s revival. What did this mean for black lives in the early 20th century?
  10. Pan-Africanism in the United States: Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Writing about this topic, you might want to highlight African American nationalism in the 20th century.

Are none of these prompts for you? Don’t worry; we’ve got more African American history paper topics for college students:

  1. Booker T. Washington vs. W. E. B. Du Bois: similarities and disagreements.
  2. African American innovators who never received credit for their inventions.
The most important African American inventors.
  1. From Hiram Rhodes Revels and Shirley Chisholm to Barack Obama: African Americans who paved the way for modern American democracy.
  2. Should the US government pay reparations to descendants of former slaves?
  3. Sojourner Truth: how did the former slave fight to end injustice?
  4. How did job competition in the North intensify racial tensions in the 20th century?
  5. The accomplishments of Dorothy Johnson Vaughan.
  6. Ida B. Wells’ legacy and the history of lynching in America.
  7. Why do we celebrate Black History Month, and why is it important?
  8. What does Juneteenth commemorate?
  9. Histories of the most famous black scientists in the United States.
  10. How did the geographic distribution of black people in America transform over time?
  11. Key activists of the abolitionist movement.
  12. How did African Americans contribute to NASA’s success?
  13. African Americans in the age of Prohibition: views and effects.
  14. Juxtapose the development of black rights and felon rights.
  15. Analyze the significance of Marian Anderson’s show on the National Mall for the Civil Rights Movement.
  16. African American women in the beauty business: the story of Madame C. J. Walker.
  17. What motivated many black Americans to fight in WWI voluntarily?
  18. How did enslaved people manage to escape to the Northern states?
  19. Compare the origins and outcomes of the Civil Rights Movement’s various marches.
  20. The New Deal’s effect on African Americans.
  21. Explore the connection between black history in the US and cotton.
  22. What does the term “black flight” mean, and why might the phenomenon be a problem?
  23. How did white capping inhibit the development of black communities?
  24. What were the goals of the Che Lumumba Club?
  25. Analyze the Regents of the University of California v. Bakke case. What did its outcome mean for equality?
  26. What makes Angela Davis a crucial figure in the black history discourse?
  27. Analyze how Jackie Robinson broke the “color line” to pave the way for African American participation in professional sports.
  28. Discuss the long-term consequences of the Tuskegee experiment.
  29. How did the Watts Riots affect African American communities in California?
  30. Explore the origins of Kwanzaa.
  31. African American poetry before 1877: Lucy Terry’s Bars Fight.
  32. Not so free after all: enactment of the Fugitive Slave Law.
  33. Did the situation for American people of color improve after the implementation of Affirmative Action laws? If so, how?
  34. Trailblazing black Americans in education.
  35. How did sports help promote equality for African Americans in the 1900s?
  36. Who were the Scottsboro boys?
  37. Journalism’s fight for social justice: The Crisis magazine then and now.
  38. How did Prohibition help dissolve segregation?

🏞️ Native American Topics to Write About

Much effort has gone into improving the relations between Americans and the indigenous peoples. Unfortunately, this hasn’t always been the case. The history of native Americans is tainted with cruel battles. Taking a closer look reveals the interplay of various cultures and customs.

  1. Pocahontas is one of the most renowned figures in Native American history. Compare Pocahontas’ real life vs. how she is depicted in the media. Why was she often romanticized?
  2. How did Andrew Jackson’s government justify the Indian Removal Act? Moral standards during that time and economic reasoning might be a compelling area to focus on.
  3. Native American participation in American wars. The colonists fought many battles with each other. France, Spain, and England all competed for the new territory. Did Native Americans participate in these fights? If so, whose side were they on?
  4. African peoples were not the only ones who suffered serfdom. Your research paper could cover the colonial enslavement of Native Americans.
  5. In the 18th century, settlers and natives negotiated a variety of treaties. What did they say? Were these treaties ever beneficial for the natives?
  6. The Indian Appropriations Act of 1851 organized Native American lives into reservations. What did life look like for natives in these reservations? Additionally, you could examine how reservations affect their lives today.
  7. Attempts to deal with Native Americans included assimilation and “civilization.” How did these methods work out? For a concrete example, investigate Henry Pratt’s Carlisle Indian Industrial school.
  8. If you want to know more about Indian belief systems, research the emergence of the Ghost Dance. Originating in the late 19th century, many native communities adapted the new tradition.
  9. Geronimo escaped captivity countless times before turning himself in. How did he do that? Your essay can look at his beliefs and this geographical knowledge.
  10. The Narragansett was the first tribe to encounter European settlers. What were their relations? How did they develop? Consider territorial struggles and the role of Roger Williams.

Are you looking for something else? Check out these US history essay questions and prompts:

  1. Compare and contrast American and Australian historical relations to their native population.
  2. What events led to the breakout of King Philip’s War?
  3. Ancient Indian burial rituals and modern myths.
  4. How did the Cherokees rebuild their lives after the Trail of Tears?
  5. Sacagawea’s contribution to the success of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
  6. Great Native American leaders: Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull.
  7. What happened at the Battle of the Little Bighorn?
  8. Consequences for Native American lives after the proclamation of 1763.
  9. The crucial role of Navajo Code Talkers in WWII.
  10. How did integration into American culture transform tribal life for different tribes?
  11. Explore naming customs of various Native American tribes.
  12. Is Black Elk Speaks an accurate representation of Lakota culture?
  13. What did the American Indian Movement achieve?
  14. What makes the Massacre of Wounded Knee significant?
  15. Trace Leonard Peltier’s career in politics and activism. 
  16. Chief Tecumseh and the Indian confederacy.
  17. Compare and contrast the cultures of native tribes from various regions in America before colonization. 
  18. How did American policies regarding the indigenous population change from the Mayflower’s arrival until now? 
  19. What happened to California’s extensive Native American population after it became a state?
  20. The development of Native American music.
  21. Traditional Cherokee farming tools and techniques.
  22. Native Americans and religion: what compelled some chiefs to convert to Christianity? 
  23. How did N. Scott Momaday’s House Made of Dawn shape indigenous cultures’ image for the general public?
  24. How did native spiritualism relate to the environment?
  25. Gender roles of the Sioux tribe before 1900.
  26. The greatest battles between First Nations and Americans.
  27. Why were the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Seminole, and Cherokee considered the “Five Civilized Tribes”? 
  28. America’s first native newspaper: The Cherokee Phoenix and its modern equivalent.
  29. How did many of today’s Native Americans become entangled with alcohol and gambling? 
  30. Myths and speculations on the ancient origins of indigenous Americans. 
  31. Economic development of Native American tribes in the 20th century.
  32. Why did Cochise and his Apache warriors raid American settlements?
  33. Trace the history of indigenous feminism.
  34. What were the blood quantum laws, and why were they introduced?
  35. Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill: forging an unlikely friendship.
  36. The accomplishments of Oglala Lakota chief Red Cloud.
  37. How did the Louisiana Purchase impact First Nations in the region? 
  38. The history of Native Americans in law and politics.
  39. The political aftermath of the Sand Creek Massacre
  40. Cheyenne warrior societies: the emergence of Dog Soldiers as a separate band.

⭐ Topics on Famous People in American History

People shape history. Many of America’s leading historical figures made it to global importance. This section provides you with history essay topics on American artists, presidents, innovators, and more.

  1. The “King of Pop” Michael Jackson died a decade ago. Why is he still one of the most debated American celebrities? Your essay could focus on the controversial allegations of child abuse towards him.
  2. The social influence of Benjamin Franklin’s journalism is an enticing topic. It allows you to look at the founding father from a different angle. Make sure to include in your essay his desire to educate Americans in morality.
  3. John Harvey Kellogg was a progressive healthcare leader. He was also a fierce follower of Adventism. If you endorse obscure things, write about Kellogg’s “warfare with passion.”
  4. Mural made Jackson Pollock famous. Reflect on his career before and after the painting. How did the artist find his passion for drip painting? 
  5. As a First Lady, Betty Ford was a strong advocate for women’s rights. But her political influence didn’t end with her husband’s career. Discuss Betty Ford’s accomplishments after her time in the White House. Mention her addiction and the subsequent establishment of the Betty Ford Center.
  6. In 1935, J. Edgar Hoover founded the FBI. In his later years, he became a controversial figure due to his abuses of power. Examine Hoover’s investigations of subversion. What do you find surprising about them?
  7. Before his brother’s assassination, Bobby Kennedy wasn’t particularly popular in the US. Analyze his speeches during his political career after the event. What made him a compassionate orator?
  8. The Kennedy-Nixon debates provide a rich foundation for those interested in political campaigning. How did the public react to them? What did the polls say? Keep in mind that it was America’s first televised presidential debate.
  9. If you seek to combine environmentalism and politics, Al Gore is your man. How did Al Gore shape America’s political discourse in the 2000s? Consider his loss against George Bush in the controversial 2000 election.
  10. Literature enthusiasts know Allen Ginsberg for his explicit poem Howl. How did he express his political and social activism in his works? You could focus on his fight for free speech and the Howl trial. 

We’ve got more topics on regents and other famous Americans for you to check out:

  1. Just Say No: Nancy Reagan and the failure of her anti-drug campaign.
  2. Why was Abraham Lincoln such a controversial figure?
  3. Kurt Cobain and Nirvana: the voice of the ‘90s youth.
  4. Ronald Reagan was an actor before he became president. What drove him into politics?
  5. What circumstances made Donald Trump’s presidency possible?
  6. Why was Jimmy Carter such an unpopular president? 
  7. Discuss what Eleanor Roosevelt achieved for women. 
  8. Stanley Kubrick: was he the greatest filmmaker of the 20th century?
  9. The role of First Ladies before the Civil War.
  10. Judith Butler’s influence on American feminism. 
  11. Margaret Sanger: the initiator of the birth control movement. 
  12. How did Oprah Winfrey get to where she is now?
  13. Steve Jobs and the revolution of computer technology.
  14. Research the mysterious Zodiac Killer and his ciphers. Why were many people obsessed with him?
  15. How did the Wright Brothers shape the history of aviation?
  16. Amelia Earhart’s disappearance: myths and facts. 
  17. J. Robert Oppenheimer’s contributions to physics.
  18. Bruce Lee and the transformation of martial arts.
  19. How did O.J. Simpson end up in the US’ most famous car chase?
  20. Charles Goodyear and the road to vulcanized rubber.
  21. Creating nanotechnology: the legacy of Eric Drexler.
  22. Muhammad Ali’s influence on raising awareness for Parkinson’s research.
  23. Describe how Bobby Fischer impacted the world of chess.
  24. What made Chuck Norris so famous?
  25. How did Marilyn Monroe change the American attitude towards sexuality?
  26. Truman Capote’s role in advancing LGBT rights.
  27. Harper Lee’s biography after the publishing of To Kill A Mockingbird
  28. Transforming science fiction: the legacy of Philip K. Dick. 
  29. Andy Warhol as a global anti-capitalist icon.
  30. Bringing quantum physics forward: the brilliance of Richard Feynman.
  31. Samuel Colt and the consequences of inventing the revolver.
  32. Analyze the significance of Helen Keller’s work for women’s and disabled persons’ rights.
  33. How did Sam Walton become the wealthiest American in 1985?
  34. Discuss the importance of Thurgood Marshall for the Civil Rights Movement.
  35. What inspired Bill W. to found Alcoholics Anonymous? 
  36. Paving the way for gay politicians: the activism of Harvey Milk. 
  37. What was Louis B. Mayer’s management style with MGM?
  38. Walt Disney: who was the person behind the chipper cartoons? 
  39. Trace Estée Lauder’s success story.
  40. How did Olympia Brown contribute to advance gender equality in the religious sphere?

We hope you found your ideal essay or project topic on US history. Good luck with your assignment!

Further reading:

🔍 References

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