Samuel Hopkins Adams. Ray Stannard Baker. Christopher Connolly. Finley Peter Dunne. Benjamin O. Flower. Isaac Kahn Friedman. Benjamin Hampton. Will Irwin. S. S. McClure. Gustavus Meyers. Frank Norris. David Graham Phillips. Jacob Riis. Charles Edward Russell. George Kibbe Turner. Upton Sinclair. Lincoln Steffens. Ida Tarbell,
Once, their names and stories about corruption and greed, monopolies, slumlords, and exploitation of the masses were known to almost every literate American. Today, they're largely forgotten, relegated to the catacombs of history, to be dug up every now and then by a journalism or history professor trying to instill in his or her students a foundation for social action in an era that is now more concerned with jobs and security than social and political justice.
For more than three decades, beginning in the 1880s, they were the finest journalists of the era, well educated writers who cared about the society and the people they wrote about. Many had college degrees, at a time when the average American had a fifth grade education; many had studied philosophy and the creative arts in Europe. Many were socialists, seeing the problems of capitalist America not in its people, but in the social, political, and economic systems that had allowed for exploitation. They were concerned about the people, for what had happened to them in the last three decades of the nineteenth century, to what was becoming of the American dream; they were concerned if success in a corporate board room, the Congress, local politics, or on the streets, meant a loss of morality. To the country, they asked the question-must a person compromise principles to be successful? They cared about the people and believed through investigative reporting they could bring abuse to light, to help Americans reclaim their country.
They became a part of a social conscience or the people that would lead to sweeping state and federal reform and legislation that allowed urban lower- and middle-class America to regain their country from the exploitation by the robber barons and corrupt political machines, that, for awhile at least, would bring social, political, and economic reform.
They were the muckrakers.
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