Posted: June 5th, 2008
Bums, Slummers and Swells—Social Class And The Birth Of American Popular Culture On The Lower East Side, 1820-1855

The development of the “underclass” in American life and the simultaneous beginnings of what we now call pop culture both date back to the Lower East Side of nearly two centuries ago. In the early 19th century, the Five Points, a tiny area near today’s Chinatown, became America’s first slum. The pastimes and diversions of Five Pointers — their “flash” talk, music, gang violence, and sensational theatre — became part of America’s social bedrock. Warren Shaw, historian, traces the roots of American pop culture — from slang and comic books to Hollywood action blockbusters, from rap to rock’n roll and tap dancing — back to Five Points, the very location from which he delivers this talk. This event was held by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.


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