How The Other Half Lives : Studies Among The Tenements Of New York

1417 Words Feb 19th, 2015 null Page
The full title of this book is “How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York” and it was first published in 1890. Jacob A. Riis was a journalist and a photographer that focused mainly on the environment of the poor neighborhoods and slums in New York City in the second half of the 19th century. This essay deals with the motives behind Riis’s work and the importance of photographs for achieving his goals. At the beginning it is important to look at the life of Jacob A. Riis and his ideology because omission of these facts could result in misleading conclusions. David Leviatin summarizes the main events of Riis’s life in the introduction to the book. We learn that Riis himself was an immigrant from Denmark and he had first-hand experience of life in poverty. Leviatin also discusses the ideology behind Riis’s work. There were two main groups of the debate over urban poverty and immigrants. One group believed that character of people was genetic and discarded any social reform or assimilation as pointless. Many proponents of this thinking were Social Darwinists. On the other hand, some people thought that the environment and material conditions determine character of people and communities.
Riis adopted some aspects of each of these groups. He believed that people of certain origins can’t change and they won’t be able to assimilate and become “a true American”. He created his own racial and ethnic hierarchy. At the top there were Germans and immigrants…

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