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Unlike the majority of immigrants of his time Jacob Riis assimilated easily into Americas melting pot A Dutch born police reporter and amateur photographer Riis dove into the impoverished streets of Americas most populated city and proved to the upper classes that horror does exist next door In his early days of church exhibitions and in the writing of his novel How the Other Half Lives originally published on 15 November 1890 Riis depicted the color lines tenements stereotypes careers and lifestyles of Americas newest and poorest citizens In the book he discusses the despair and filth that he discovers in the ghettos and those people that remain there and those that are striving to find a way out How the Other Half Lives is an awe inspiring documentation of the trials that immigrants and factory workers were subject to during the turn of the century The seamy side of tenement life in New York is presented in the most graphic way San Francisco Chronicle 7 Jacob Riis the Danish born journalist and photographer was among the most dedicated advocates for Americas oppressed exploited and downtrodden How the Other Half Lives documented through word and image the lives of those who lived in New Yorks slums in a brutal uncensored fashion Among those moved by Riiss reportage was Theodore Roosevelt then New York police commissioner Alerted to the inhumane conditions endured by many of New Yorks inhabitants Theodore Roosevelt accompanied Riis on his rounds of tenement houses and back alleys By 1900 Riiss mission began to yield results with the help of Roosevelt city water was purified incidences of yellow fever smallpox and cholera were declining and efforts to establish child labor laws were underway After many reforms in New York and nationwide multiple published works assistance to Theodore Roosevelts campaigns Riis died of heart failure on May 26 1914 How the Other Half Lives remains to be his best selling and most popular
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