in New York Undercover

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780226266091
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226266114 | DOI:

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This book examines a complex process in which undercover investigators, employed by private social reform organizations, interacted with African Americans, immigrants, and the working class in New York to collect data on (and then control) their behavior. These investigators reported a wide range of what they perceived to be social ills — from prostitution and gambling to juvenile delinquency, race mixing, and radical political movements — back to their employers. Five such employers were New York City's most influential private organizations of social activists during the Progressive Era: the Committee of Fifteen, the Committee of Fourteen, the Colored Auxiliary of the Committee of Fourteen, the People's Institute, and the National Civic Federation. Between 1897 and 1920, these organizations, enforcing their own moral codes, resorted to undercover investigation to reduce criminality, immorality, and graft in the city. Their pioneering use of undercover investigation allowed them to intervene and attempt to reconstruct social conditions in New York City and beyond. The investigative methods developed by these private organizations were eventually appropriated by federal, state, and municipal agencies in the United States.

Keywords: undercover investigators; New York City; social reform; social activists; social conditions; undercover investigation; Committee of Fourteen; National Civic Federation; criminality; private organizations

Chapter.  4282 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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