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

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

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KIRKUS 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