Five Points: The 19th-Century New York City Neighborhood That Invented Tap Dance, Stole Elections, and Became the World's most Notorious Slum

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9780965251037: Five Points: The 19th-Century New York City Neighborhood That Invented Tap Dance, Stole Elections, and Became the World's most Notorious Slum

Review Though long ago bulldozed away and remade, the rough-and-tumble lower Manhattan district called Five Points was once considered to be so representative of New York that foreign journalists traveled there to gather horrifying stories for their readers. Wrote a Swedish reporter, "lower than to the Five Points it is not possible for human nature to sink." In his wide-ranging reconstruction of Five Points's few square blocks, historian Tyler Anbinder shows that that journalist was not far off the mark. "Dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of its residents lived in windowless, teeming apartments that were unfit for habitation," he writes. Alcoholism, violence, and prostitution were commonplace. Poverty was epidemic, and living conditions were so intolerable that the reforming sociologist Jacob Riis used the area as a case study for the wretched excesses of urban life. A corrupt city government kept the police at bay, making the neighborhood safe for a succession of crime lords but woefully dangerous for residents--most of whom, in time, would be newcomers from Ireland, Italy, Russia, and other faraway lands, as well as African Americans newly arrived from the South. "Locked into the lowest-paying occupations," as Anbinder writes, they labored, saved, and eventually moved on, making room for the next wave of immigrants.

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Tyler Anbinder
Published by The Free Press (2001)
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Tyler Anbinder
Published by The Free Press (2001)
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