As Garrison Keillor mentioned, Shakespeare was very prominent in America pre-20th Century. I was often kept along side the Bible and traveled with the pioneers to the western frontiers. Things began to change, however, in the new century. Much of this, I'm sure, came our of the artistic response to World War II (i.e. Modernism and Post-Modernism) where the world view drastically changes after such loss in human life and the ability to destroy the world itself with the atom bomb. The invention and popularity of the motion picture, also changed our perception of theatre, heavily affecting Shakespeare as well. Shakespeare and his works are not pop-culture like they used to be. Yes, Baz Luhrman's "Romeo + Juliet" and Kenneth Branaugh have done a great deal to reach into our high schools, but Shakespeare is largely viewed as classical, elitist, stilted, and (sadly) boring.
The National Endowment for the Arts has undertaken a program, Shakespeare in American Communities, to change this perceptions but not only reaching out into communities that have no Shakespeare, but reaching out into communities with no theatre at all. This massive program with an aggressive education proponent has already out grown its initial lifespan and intentions.
The program is quite stupendous and inspiring as to what we should be doing as theatre artists. If you are working in the theatre at all, I would highly suggest taking a look at their website and reading their promotional material.
Happy Birthday: April 27 - August Wilson (1945-2005)