NOT CHARITY, BUT JUSTICE"": The Story of Jacob A. Riis by Edith Patterson Meyer

NOT CHARITY, BUT JUSTICE"": The Story of Jacob A. Riis

Email this review


Most of the energy here comes from Riis' own writings which have been heavily drawn on as source material. But Meyer's diligent compilation is still a fitting way to approach the career of Riis, who is remembered for his photographic exposes of How the Other Half Lives, although his many practical victories are often forgotten. After a number of false starts in business, the Danish immigrant Riis became a police reporter for the New York Tribune, attacked the job in his characteristically whole-hearted manner, and soon took the whole pathology of the slums as his beat. Meyer doesn't often say so, but many of Riis' campaigns now seem outmoded and sentimental -- he considered the saloon a major came (rather than an effect) of poverty and organized a drive to give away fresh flowers to slum children. But Riis was no dilettante; the flower project led indirectly to the founding of a settlement house; his thorough investigations brought about the end of contamination to the city's water supply; he was responsible for the establishment of vestpocket parks and school playgrounds. In short, his lifelong dedication ensured that the horror of the slums would become a civic concern and not just mother momentary scandal. This is a solid life history, full of specifics and of humane concern of which Riis himself would have approved.

Pub Date: Feb. 10th, 1975
Page count: 172pp
Publisher: Vanguard