The very letters of the two words seem, as they are written, to redden with the blood-stains of unavenged crime. There is Murder in every syllable, and Want, Misery and Pestilence take startling form and crowd upon the imagination as the pen traces the words." So wrote a reporter about Five Points, the most infamous neighborhood in nineteenth-century America, the place where "slumming" was invented.All but forgotten today, Five Points was once renowned the world over. Its handful of streets in lower Manhattan featured America's most wretched poverty, shared by Irish, Jewish, German, Italian, Chinese, and African Americans. It was the scene of more riots, scams, saloons, brothels, and drunkenness than any other neighborhood in the new world. Yet it was also a font of creative energy, crammed full of cheap theaters and dance halls, prizefighters and machine politicians, and meeting halls for the political clubs that would come to dominate not just the city but an entire era in American politics. From Jacob Riis to Abraham Lincoln, Davy Crockett to Charles Dickens, Five Points both horrified and inspired everyone who saw it. The story that Anbinder tells is the classic tale of America's immigrant past, as successive waves of new arrivals fought for survival in a land that was as exciting as it was dangerous, as riotous as it was culturally rich. Tyler Anbinder offers the first-ever history of this now forgotten neighborhood, drawing on a wealth of research among letters and diaries, newspapers and bank records, police reports and archaeological digs. Beginning with the Irish potato-famine influx in the 1840s, and ending with the rise of Chinatown in the early twentieth century, heweaves unforgettable individual stories into a tapestry of tenements, work crews, leisure pursuits both licit and otherwise, and riots and political brawls that never seemed to let up. Although the intimate stories that fill Anbinder's narrative are heart-wrenching, they are perhaps not so shocking as they first appear. Almost all of us trace our roots to once humble stock. Five Points is, in short, a microcosm of America.
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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.
Five Points is gone, though a few of its streets remain, marking the edge of Chinatown. Anbinder's careful study brings it back to life. --Gregory McNameeAbout the Author:
Tyler Anbinder is an Associate Professor of History at George Washington University. His first book, Nativism and Slavery: The Northern Know Nothings and the Politics of the 1850's, was a New York Times Book Review Notable Book and the winner of the Avery Craven Prize of the Organization of American Historians. He lives in Arlington, Virginia.
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Descrizione libro Free Press, 2001. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. First. Codice libro della libreria DADAX0684859955
Descrizione libro Free Press, 2001. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. Never used!. Codice libro della libreria P110684859955
Descrizione libro Free Press. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. 0684859955 New Condition. Codice libro della libreria NEW6.1233647