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Posted: January 27th, 2010
New York Undercover

An interesting look at the origins of the “modern surveillance state” – author Jennifer Fronc discusses her book, “New York Undercover: Private Surveillance in the Progressive Era.” It was relatively common, it turns out, for “social activists” to send private investigators into gambling parlors, brothels, and meetings of criminal gangs and radical political organizations. These amateur sleuths – often journalists or social workers – were employed by organizations like the National Civic Federation and the Committee of Fourteen. The groups used the information gathered to “combat behavior they viewed as sexually promiscuous, politically undesirable, or downright criminal.” In Fronc’s book, she demonstrates how the strategy enabled the government to strengthen “a federal state that grew increasingly repressive in the interest of pursuing a national security agenda.”

Tenement Talks is an evening series of lectures, readings, panel discussions and programming that provides perspective on New York City’s rich culture.

Free & held at the Tenement Museum 108 Orchard unless otherwise noted.

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About the Tenement Museum

We tell the stories of 97 Orchard Street. Built on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1863, this tenement apartment building was home to nearly 7000 working class immigrants.They faced challenges we understand today: making a new life, working for a better future, starting a family with limited means.

In recognizing the importance of this seemingly ordinary building, the Tenement Museum has re-imagined the role that museums can play in our lives.


Recorded at the Tenement Museum on January 12, 2010.  Runtime: 56 minutes.



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