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In a remarkable educational journey, students have recently delved into the history of tenement living in New York City, guided by the legacy of muckraker Jacob Riis. Through their studies, they were able to see firsthand what those conditions were and gained an understanding of the harsh realities faced by early 20th-century families residing on the Lower East Side.

Jacob Riis, a journalist and social reformer, used his writing and photography to shine a light on the dire living conditions in NYC’s tenements at the turn of the century. His work not only raised public awareness but also spurred significant social reform, helping to improve the lives of countless immigrants and low-income residents.

The students’ exploration included a case study of a family living in these conditions, providing them with a connection to the past. This hands-on learning experience was made possible through a collaboration with The Tenement Museum, which is dedicated to preserving and interpreting the history of immigration through the personal experiences of the generations of newcomers who settled in and built lives on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the Tenement Museum for their invaluable support in bringing history to life for our students. By engaging with the past in such an interactive manner, they have gained a deeper appreciation for the struggles and triumphs of those who came before us. It is through understanding our history that we can continue to fight for justice and equity in our communities.