Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 14
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Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 14
 
the story of the long fight, and pointing out its meaning to us all. In the audience sat a sturdy, white-haired, old farmer who followed the recital with keen interest, losing no word. When he saw this picture of one of the Five Points, he spoke out loud: “Yes! that is right. I was there.” It turned out that he and his sister had borne a hand in the attack upon that stronghold of the slum by the forces of decency, in 1849 and 1850, which ended in the wiping out of the city’s worst disgrace. It was the first pitched battle in the fight. Soon after he had come west and taken homestead land; but the daily repetition during a lifetime of the message to men, which the woods and the fields and God’s open sky have in keeping, had not dulled his ears to it, and after fifty years his interest in his brothers in the great city was as keen as ever, his sympathies as quick. He had driven twenty miles across the frozen prairie to hear my story. It is his kind who win such battles, and a few of them go a long way.
 
 
The “Old Church” Tenement.
 
  A handful of Methodist women made the Five Points decent. To understand what that meant, look at the “dens of death” in Baxter Street, which were part of it, “houses,” says the health inspector, 1 “into which the sunlight never enters … that are dark, damp, and dismal throughout all the days of
Note 1. Report of Board of Health, New York, 1869, p.346. [ back ]

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