APPARTS: # 161. Jacob Riis Describes How The Other Half Lives, 1890*
Author: This document was written by Jacob A. Riis, an excerpt from his How the Other Half Lives. The author views that most people do not realize the tremendous amount of poverty surrounding them. They do not realize how the “other half” of the population; meaning the poor, manage to make it through a living. Riis wants to describe the living conditions of the lower class to create Americans an image of how the poor has many difficulties. Place and Time: Jacob Riis wrote this document in the late nineteenth century. This was when immigrants, mostly from Southern and Eastern Europe, came in an abundance amount of number to American cities very rapidly. However, Jacob Riis focuses mainly on New York City in this excerpt, for it was the major entry port for Europeans and possessed more foreign-born residents and more densely populated neighborhoods than any other U.S. city. Prior Knowledge: The first great wave of immigration began in the 1820s during a period in American history that witnessed expansion, innovation, and the beginning of a modern society. The United States offered hope with the prospect of prosperity and security for many Europeans struggling with the post Napoleonic period. The arrival of so many immigrants created massive problems in Northern cities. The Five Points district in New York City spawned the cholera outbreak during the presidency of Andrew Jackson which led to stereotyping immigrants by middle class and wealthy Americans. Emerging slums further intensified sanitation concerns and produced irrational fears. By the 1850s, strong nativist feelings led to the formation of the American party, often referred to as the “Know-Nothings.” Believing that low-wage earning immigrants would take away jobs and fearful of the perceived authoritarianism of Catholicism, Know-Nothings attempted to pass strict laws restricting immigrants. Both Irish and German immigrants helped...
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