Jacob Riis: Reporter and Reformer

Overview


Jacob Riis (1849-1914) was born in Denmark and emigrated to America at the age of 21. After several years of poverty, he found work as a police reporter, which took him into the worst of New York's ghettos and tenements. Appalled by the conditions he found there, he began to use the primitive new flash technology to photograph the dark places that had never before been so graphically exposed. The resulting book, How the Other Half Lives, brought to life an entire reform movement. Riis was a staunch ally in the ...
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Overview


Jacob Riis (1849-1914) was born in Denmark and emigrated to America at the age of 21. After several years of poverty, he found work as a police reporter, which took him into the worst of New York's ghettos and tenements. Appalled by the conditions he found there, he began to use the primitive new flash technology to photograph the dark places that had never before been so graphically exposed. The resulting book, How the Other Half Lives, brought to life an entire reform movement. Riis was a staunch ally in the young Theodore Roosevelt's battle to reform the New York police, breaking the brutal system of corruption and graft that had prevented the possibility of any real change in poor neighborhoods. Riis's activism involved him in such vital current controversies as hostility toward immigration, the growing gulf between rich and poor, the relative importance of heredity and environment, the need for adequate public schools, conflicts between social reform and personal freedom, and police brutality. But at the same time, his life raises some thought-provoking moral questions, because his compassion was flawed by an underlying prejudice; his writings are marred by a clear underlying conviction of the superiority of white Protestants, and he speaks with condescension and occasional scorn of other races and religions. He remained an active reformer all his life, founding a settlement house, writing several more books, most notably The Children of the Poor, and maintaining a taxing schedule of lecture tours. This biography includes a picture essay of Riis' photographs as well as, 35 black-and-white illustrations, a chronology, further reading, and an index.

Oxford Portraits are informative and insightful biographies of people whose lives shaped their times and continue to influence ours. Based on the most recent scholarship, they draw heavily on primary sources, including writings by and about their subjects. Each book is illustrated with a wealth of photographs, documents, memorabilia, framing the personality and achievements of its subject against the backdrop of history.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"An insightful work that is sure to hold readers' interest."--School Library Journal

"Detailed and eloquent."--Booklist

School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up-This biography traces Riis's life and evolution into a progressive social reformer. He came to the United States in 1870, worked at a variety of jobs, moved from place to place, and settled in as an early-day investigative reporter, combining his descriptive writings with photographs to tell the story of the urban poor. His compassion was transmitted through his lectures, in such publications as How the Other Half Lives, and to influential friends like Theodore Roosevelt. As the United States still "seems to be divided into the well off and the `other half,'" this well-written book will challenge readers to contemplate the social structure of contemporary America and what can be done to continue progressive reforms. Numerous black-and-white photographs, albeit of average quality, and excerpts from Riis's writings contribute to an insightful work that is sure to hold readers' interest.-Patricia Ann Owens, Wabash Valley College, Mt. Carmel, IL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195145274
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 12/2/2005
  • Series: Oxford Portraits Series
  • Pages: 176
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

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