Tag Archives: u.s. history

NY Rising Presents: Life on the Lower East Side

Life on the Lower East Side, 1850-1910

University Settlement’s New York Rising students spent last year learning how to be prepared for emergencies such as hurricanes, power outages, transportation disruptions and severe snowstorms.  Now, they are looking back in time and will explore three major disasters that impacted the lives of immigrants living on the Lower East Side of New York City…our very own University Settlement neighborhood.  They will learn about the great heat wave of 1896, the sinking of the USS Slocum in the East River, and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

While each of these historic events resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives, they also resulted in changes to laws that still impact our lives today at home and in the workplace.   However, before we looked at each event, the students began to learn in greater detail what life was like for a newly arrived immigrant…perhaps someone like you…who arrived not knowing how to speak English, not knowing where their family was going to live, and not knowing how they were going to earn a living.  Fortunately for us, reformer Jacob Riis was on the scene with his camera, documenting the conditions of those living on the Lower East Side.  So today we can see exactly how difficult and challenging their lives were.

University Settlement played a major part in helping new immigrants back in the 1880s and 1900s, just as it does today. You can learn more by clicking here.

The students each chose one of the photos published by Jacob Riis and were asked to write a short essay from the view point of someone in the photo.  We hope you enjoy their essays. Read one below and click here or on the link below to read more:

LIFE IS SO HARD

by Ada Huang

From the 1850’s through the early 1900’s, thousands of immigrants arrived in the United States and lived in New York City. I was the one of them.

My name is Nolan and I am 40 years old. I came from Ireland. I am very poor. I live in an old building on the Lower East Side of Manhattan where rents for the crowded apartment buildings are low. There are 20 families living in my building, 4 on each floor. I live in a tiny room with 7 unmarried men. The room is dark, dirty and without windows. I only have one desk, one chair and one plank to sleep on. I have to put the plank on the desk and the chair back to make my bed at night and then put the plank away next to the wall during the day. Otherwise, there is no space.

The building is dark and airless because the buildings are packed close together. Some buildings are built in the yard between the front and the back of other buildings. We all sleep on the roof on hot summer nights even though it is dangerous. There is no electric lighting in the building. We only use gas lanterns to light the apartment at night and there is also no running water inside the apartment. We have to get water from an outside pump and everyday we have to share the one indoor toilet in the hallway. You can’t imagine how long we have to wait for the toilet every day, especially in the morning. We have to go to a public bath once a week to take a shower.

I worked for a very small coal company delivering coal. I worked 10 hours a day and 7 days a week. I needed to carry heavy containers of coal to the customers every day. Sadly, I lost my job a few days ago. Now, I only have a few pennies and a loaf of bread left. If I don’t find a new job soon, my landlord will kick me out.  What a hard life!

Click here to read more.

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Martin Luther King, Jr.

To help you learn more about American Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., esolcourses.com has provided a video and interactive quiz. Just click here or on the image below to begin:

 

 

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American English Vs. British English

Here’s a fun video explaining how American English and British English parted ways:

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Presidents’ Day

Today is Presidents’ Day. Here are some links to help you learn more about this holiday – just click on any of them:

  1. Presidents’ Day Quiz
  2. Another Presidents’ Day Quiz
  3. Yet Another Presidents’ Day Quiz
  4. Happy Birthday, Mr. President
  5. Easy Presidents’ Day Reading & Activities

 

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HERSTORY

There’s a new exhibit at the Chatham Square Branch of the New York Public Library that you might want to check out.

From NYPL.org:

The Chatham Square Branch of the New York Public Library is pleased to present a rare look at Chinese-American women’s history, told through legal cases fought in supreme courts throughout the United States. Using the personal collection of Dr. Chang C. Chen (邱彰博士), Herstory features rare photographs and case descriptions of efforts by Chinese-American women to gain legal standing in the U.S.

Starting in 1852, the cases document women who fought for equal treatment in the eyes of the law and for citizenship and immigration rights. One 1874 case from San Francisco describes a group of recent immigrants who were defined as “lewd and immoral” due to their style of dress, and were set to be deported. The women fought back and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in their favor, stating that the California laws were in conflict with federal immigration laws and the women were released. In Tape v. Hurley, 66 Cal. 473 (1885), a landmark case in the California Supreme Court in which the Court found the exclusion of a Chinese American student from public school based on her ancestry unlawful. The Court ruled that Chinese-American children had a right to public education and to attend public schools.

The exhibit is a fascinating look at the ordinary people who fought for their rights, and, in doing so, helped shape a new world for Chinese-Americans in the United States. The exhibition is provided to the library by Dr. Chang C Chen (邱彰博士), who has worked tirelessly to document the written legal history of Chinese-Americans.

For Chatham Square hours and location, click here.

Chatham Square Library on Google Maps:

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All About Labor Day

Today is Labor Day in the U.S. and Canada. Here’s a good video about the history of Labor Day from TED Ed. When you’re finished, take the quiz to test your comprehension:

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