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Jacob Riis

所属教程:People in America 更新:11-02
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VOICE 1:

I'm Shirley Griffith.

VOICE 2:

And I'm Ray Freeman with the VOA Special English program, Peoplein America.

Every week at this time, the Voice of America tells about someoneimportant in the history of the United States. This week we tellabout Jacob Riis. He was a writer who used all his energy to makethe world a better place for poor people.

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Graphic Image

(Theme)

VOICE 1:

In the spring of eighteen-seventy, a young man traveled acrossthe Atlantic Ocean to New York City. The young man came fromDenmark. His name was Jacob Riis. He was just twenty-one years old.

His first years in the United States were difficult, like thoseof most immigrants at that time. It was difficult to get a job.Jacob Riis went from place to place seeking work. He did any kind ofwork he could find. Farming, coal mining, brick-making. He eventried to earn money as a peddler. He went from house to houseselling things. Many times he slept wherever he could.

Soon he was beginning to lose hope. He decided to leave New York.He started to walk north. After a time, he arrived in the Bronx, thenorthern part of New York City. His feet burned with pain. And hewas hungry.

VOICE 2:

"I Had not eaten a thing since the day before. I had nobreakfast, and decided to have a swim in the Bronx River, instead.But that did not help. I was just as hungry when I came out of thewater.

"Then I walked slowly to Fordham College, which was not far fromwhere I was. The doors to Fordham College were open, and I walkedin, for no reason. I was just tired and had nothing else to do.

"Fordham is a Catholic college. And an old monk came to me andasked in a kind voice if I was hungry. I still remember in my dreamsat night the beautiful face of that old monk. I was terribly hungry,and said I was, although I did not mean to do so. I had never seen areal live monk before. My own religious education as a Lutheran didnot teach me to like Catholic monks.

"I ate the food that was brought to me. But I was troubled. I wasafraid that after giving me food, the churchman would ask me tochange my religious beliefs. I said to myself: 'I am not going to doit.' But when I had eaten, I was not asked to do anything. I wasgiven more food when I left, and continued on my way. I was angrywith myself for having such bad thoughts about the Catholicchurchmen at Fordham College. For the first time, I learnedsomething about how to live with people of different religiousbeliefs. "

(Music Bridge)

VOICE 1:

Later, Jacob Riis learned more about liking people, even if theyare different. This time, it happened while he was working on arailroad with men who did rough work and looked rough.

VOICE 2:

"I had never done that sort of work, and it was not the right jobfor me. I did my best to work like the other men. But my chest feltheavy, and my heart pounded in my body as if it were going toexplode. There were nineteen Irishmen in the group. They were big,rough fellows. They had chosen me as the only 'Dutchman' -- as theycalled me -- to make them laugh. They were going to use me as partof their jokes.

"But then they saw that the job was just too hard for me. Thismade them feel different about me. It showed another side to thesefun-loving, big-hearted people. They thought of many ways to get meaway from the very rough work. One, was to get me to bring water forthem. They liked stronger things to drink than water. But now theysuddenly wanted water all the time. I had to walk a long way for thewater. But it stopped me from doing the work that was too hard forme. These people were very rough in their ways. But behind theroughness they were good men."

VOICE 1:

At last, Jacob Riis got a job writing for a newspaper in New YorkCity. This was his chance. He finally had found a profession thatwould lead to his life work -- making the world a better place forpoor people.

The newspaper sent him to police headquarters for stories. Therehe saw life at its worst, especially in a very poor part of New Yorkwhich was known as Mulberry Bend.

VOICE 2:

"It was no place for men and women. And surely no place forlittle children. It was a terrible slum -- as such places are called-- where too many are crowded together, where the houses and streetsare dirty and full of rats. The place began to trouble me as thetruth about it became clear. Others were not troubled. They had noway of finding out how terrible the lives of people were in MulberryBend. But as a newspaper reporter, I could find the truth. So I wentthrough the dark dirty streets and houses, and saw how the peoplesuffered in this area. And I wrote many stories about the lifethere.

"I did good work as a police reporter, but wanted a change. Myeditor said, 'no.' He asked me to go back to Mulberry Bend and staythere. He said I was finding something there that needed me."

VOICE 1:

The words of Jacob Riis' editor proved to be very true. Riisstarted a personal war against slum houses, the sort he saw inMulberry Bend. He learned to use a camera to show the public clearlywhat the Mulberry Bend slum was like. The camera in theeighteen-eighties was nothing like it is today. But Riis got hispictures.

Laborersin a sweat shop, from Riis
Laborersin a sweat shop, from Riis' 1890 book,

VOICE 2:

"I made good use of them quickly. Words could get no action tochange things. But the pictures did. What the camera showed was sopowerful that the city's health officials started to do something.At last I had a strong partner in the fight against Mulberry Bend --my camera. "

(Music Bridge)

VOICE 1:

Jacob Riis continued the fight to clean up the slums for manyyears. There were not many people to help him. It was a lonelyfight. But his camera and fighting words helped to get a law passedwhich would destroy the Mulberry Bend slum. Finally, the great daycame. The slum housing was gone. The area had become a park.

VOICE 2:

"When they had fixed the ground so the grass could grow, I sawchildren dancing there in the sunlight. They were going to have abetter life, thank God. We had given them their lost chance. Ilooked at these dancing children and saw how happy they were. Thisplace that had been full of crime and murder became the most orderlyin the city.

"The murders and crimes disappeared when they let sunlight comeinto the bend. The sunlight that shone upon children who had, atlast, the right to play. That was what the Mulberry Bend park meant.So the bend went. And I was very happy that I had helped to make itgo."

VOICE 1:

That was not Riis' last battle to make life cleaner and betterfor many people. He had great energy. And his love for people was asgreat as his energy.

He started a campaign to get clean water for the state of NewYork. He showed that water for the state was not healthy for people.State officials were forced to take actions that would clean thewater.

He also worked to get laws against child labor, and made surethat these laws were obeyed. In those days, when Riis was a fightingnewspaper reporter, laws against child labor were something new.People did not object to making young children work long hours, inplaces that had bad air and bad light. But in the United Statestoday, child labor is not legal. It was because of men like JacobRiis that this is so.

He was also successful in getting playgrounds for children. Andhe helped establish centers for education and fun for older people.

His book, how the other half lives, was published ineighteen-ninety. He became famous. That book and his newspaperreports influenced many people. Theodore Roosevelt, who later becamepresident of the United States, called Riis the most useful citizenin New York City.

Riis continued to write about conditions that were in need ofmajor reform. His twelve books including children of the poor helpedimprove conditions in the city. The books also made him popular as aspeaker in other cities. Jacob Riis's concern for the poor kept himso busy writing and speaking around the country that he ruined hishealth. He died in nineteen-fourteen.

(Theme)

VOICE 2:

This Special English program was written by Herbert Sutcliffe andproduced by Lawan Davis. I'm Ray Freeman.

VOICE 1:

And I'm Shirley Griffith. Listen again next week for anotherPeople in America program on the Voice of America.

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