What did Jacob A. Riis' photographs said about the East Side Slums and the life of immigrants?

Essay by tamberenaCollege, UndergraduateA-, March 2004

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The industrial revolution in the late 19th century brought an overwhelming number of immigrants to live and work in the United States. The boom in industry caused a demand for large supplies of workers to operate the many expanding businesses. The most substantial wave of immigration to the United States occurred between 1880 and 1915, totaling about 5.2 million newcomers from many European and Asian countries.# Immigrants came to the U.S. for a number of reasons, but most came seeking political freedom and economic opportunity.# Most Americans looked down on unwanted immigrants and considered any hardships they suffered due to their own personal shortcomings. However, journalist Jacob A. Riis showed the harsh working and living conditions of New York City slums through his powerful and thought-provoking photographs as the cause of Urban poverty.

When immigrants first began migrating to the United States, Americans responded in a few ways. One way was to try and stop such large numbers of people getting into the U.S.

with restrictions.# While many were not let in purely on racial terms, others were told that they needed to have papers proving that they had family already living in the United States. The second way Americans attempted to deal with the immigrants was through assimilation.# This idea formed around the thought that "they seem a lot like us, let's make them be us."# Americans did not

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understand the strength of other cultures, though, and did not realize that cultures could all be different but still live together peacefully. Therefore, assimilation did not curb the Americans distaste for the seemingly "lower" immigrants. Riis believed that rather than immigrants getting themselves into their horrid lives, they had been "engulfed in an environmental disaster that only public action could improve or eliminate."#

Though not very promising,