How the Other Half Lives

Topics: Race and Ethnicity, New York City, Ethnic group Pages: 3 (837 words) Published: May 7, 2014
Jacob Riis book, How the Other Half Lives showed the rest of the world what living in poverty was like and how terrible the conditions were in New York City. In the book when describing the poverty and people suffering from it, he focused on different races and ethnic backgrounds. Although all the people he described did suffer from poverty conditions in the city, it also seemed that they suffered from racial and ethnic tension. In 1890 the city was much divided and Jacob Riis book does an excellent job at pointing out the tension between different groups in the city. Many different groups such as African Americans, women, children, Jewish, Chinese, etc. were discriminated against leading to the extremely divided city.

In the book that chapter titled “The Color line in New York” explored poverty conditions among the African American community. Not only were African Americans living in some of the worst tenement conditions, but they were also charged much more than whites for rent. It was noted that a black family paid 10 dollars rent for a tenement that they couldn’t get a white family to pay $7.50. The reason that blacks were charged so much more was ultimately because whites didn’t want to live with them in the same tenements which seems ridiculous since black tenants were usually cleaner and overall better. African Americans were treated poorly for no real reason other than whites wanting to feel superior over them, and at the time they didn’t have the power to overcome the unfair treatment. “The Negroes great ambition is to rise in the social scale to which his color has made him a stranger and an outsider” (Riis 117).

In the 1890’s women and girls in New York City were also ridiculed against in many ways. Most women in the city were employed because their earnings were needed to support their family. Numbers estimate that at this time about 150,000 women and girls earned their own living. Women would work extremely long days like 16 hours...
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