Why Lewis Hine Should be as Well Known as LeBron James
He Helped Improve All of Our Lives.
Even those who don’t like sports have at least heard of “King James.” Many believe he is even better than Michael Jordan, and there is serious evidence to back it up.
This post is not about the Lakers Superstar. It is about a little known man named Lewis Hine.
Born in 1874 and dying in 1940, he lived during a time of great change in America. With more technology and a fast growing population, America was on the rise to becoming a true super power.
Unfortunately, there were no laws in place protecting children, and education was not valued the way it is now. Children as young as six were forced to go out and get jobs to put bread on the table for their families.
With no laws protecting them, they were often taken advantage of in horrible ways. They would work 12–14 hours a day six days a week. Lewis Hine took many photos of these working conditions to show the world what it was like for children at the time.
He worked for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) which aimed at improving the laws of children by lobbying for laws protecting them. His photos can still be seen online today.
These photos eventually lead to serious outrage among Americans and sparked talks in Congress to write laws protecting children. Factory owners and larger companies were not happy with Mr. Hine. He was a serious threat to their business.
Hine was hated by these companies and factory owners. He was threatened often by Forman and even the police who watched over the factories. If these people could not use children to work, they would lose a serious amount of profit.
Because of this, Hine often had to hide his identity and dressed up as a mailman, postcard vendor, Bible salesman, and more. He believed in his cause and risked his own health to make sure that his work and message was heard.
Despite this, he refused to slow down. He kept working anyway and ignored the threats to his own safety. He said this when talking about what makes a good photo, “A reproduction of impressions made upon the photographer which he desires to repeat to others.” He believed in photos and the power they hold.
The Keating-Owens law eventually passed by 1916. The laws stated the following: a minimum age of 14 for workers in manufacturing and 16 for workers in mining; a maximum workday of 8 hours; prohibition of night work for workers under age 16; and a documentary proof of age.
Although this law did not stick, it was clear at this point America was on a new path. It would take a few more years before children were truly protected by the law.
This also served as a basis for all of our five day, 40 hours a week work schedules. We may view this as a lot, but compared to what kids were doing early on, it’s not so bad.
Lewis Hine was one of the key people to spark true change in this country. Of course, his work was not recognized back then the way it is today. Mr. Hine died very poor despite all his work.
Like many before him and many after him, his accomplishments were not given the respect it deserved until many years after his death. This always seems to happen to the good ones.
For those interested, many of his photos can be found here.
All we can do now is give him the praise he should have received when alive.