Jacob Riis How The Other Half Lives Summary

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In an age where industrialization, wealth, and the desire to gain material progress ruled the American social rankings, Jacob Riis did not hesitate to expose the other end of the spectrum. While middle and upper class Americans were sitting pretty with their superior statuses and wealth, the lower class was overworked and underappreciated. By working as a newspaper reporter, social reformer, and photographer, the Danish immigrant effectively portrayed the lives of the other half: those living in the slums of New York (Editors). The famous muckraker, or pre-WW1 scandal hunter, opened the eyes of the upper classes and brought attention to the terrible conditions of the impoverished immigrants. Working as both a journalist and police reporter…show more content…
His role as a powerful social reformer resulted in an increased appeal to reform. The book he ended up writing, How the Other Half Lives, even caught future president, Theodore Roosevelt’s attention. Roosevelt began offering him jobs, claiming that he had “read [his] book and [he had] come to help” (Moore). The two teamed up; Riis taking Roosevelt to the slums to show him everything he explained in his book. Moved by the sights, the future president succumbed to his distraught conscience; he took action and “demanded that city officials pass the first significant legislation to improve the state of affairs in immigrant neighborhoods” (Moore). Through a diverse collection of jobs, Jacob Riis’s knack for writing eventually led him to a job as a police reporter. Using his natural talent of photography, he managed to capture the tenement life in New York. Riis’s passion for reform led him to use the camera as a medium of exposure. His goal was to bring powerful images to the public and upper classes to evoke a strong response, to tug at their heart strings in hope for support of change. His goal was met as his iconic photographs soon were utilized in books, newspapers, and magazines as a tool to expand social reform

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