• "Newsboys and bootblacks shooting craps," 1912. Courtesy of The New York Public Library.

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    Newsboys and bootblacks shooting craps, 1912
    • Date
    • 1905 - 1934
    • Creator
    • Hine, Lewis Wickes, 1874-1940.
    • Description
    • Forms part of the Lewis Wickes Hine Collection. Numbered: [1.]-108.
    • Standardized Rights Statement
    • http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/UND/1.0/
    • Partner
    • The New York Public Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection. The New York Public Library

  • Eleventh Avenue in New York City, north from and including 54th Street, 1927. Eleventh Avenue, with the railroad running down it from 60th Street, used to be nicknamed "Death Avenue." Courtesy of The New York Public Library.

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    Manhattan: 11th Avenue - 54th Street: Eleventh Avenue, north from and including 54th Street. Eleventh Avenue, with the railroad running down it from 60th Street, used to be nicknamed "Death Avenue;" but by the time of this picture the danger is more from the automobiles
    • Date
    • 1927-05-20
    • Creator
    • Sperr, Percy Loomis (1890-1964).
    • Standardized Rights Statement
    • http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC/1.0/
    • Partner
    • The New York Public Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy. The New York Public Library

  • Children playing in Harlem, New York City, 1925. Courtesy of The New York Public Library.

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    There are few playgrounds in Harlem. Negro children must play on the streets.
    • Date
    • 1929
    • Standardized Rights Statement
    • http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/NoC-US/1.0/
    • Partner
    • The New York Public Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division. The New York Public Library

Most urban children in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century played on the streets and sidewalks, especially those who lived in densely populated tenement neighborhoods such as New York City’s Lower East Side.

Some cities attempted to legislate children’s street play. They saw it as, at best, a nuisance to adults, who could be struck on their way to work by an errant ball from a children’s game, and, at worst, potentially fatal to children because streetcar and trolley accidents were common. Eleventh Avenue in New York City came to be known as “Death Avenue” when the New York Central Railway installed tracks for a commercial train. The train endangered children who live along the avenue, some of whom lost their limbs or lives playing on the tracks. In 1908, 500 children marched up Eleventh Avenue in protest.

Children organized elsewhere to protect their ability to play in the streets. In 1906, a group of children called the Courtland Street Liberty League protested to Cleveland Mayor Tom Johnson when children were prohibited from playing in the streets. They waved banners and carried signs on their way to meet with the mayor, who was won over. “If the children have no playgrounds," he said, "they should be allowed to play in the streets.”