Freedman has collected dozens of black and white photographs taken by Lewis Hine during the first decades of the twentieth century. Hine worked as an investigational photographer for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC). The NCLC wanted the United States government to pass laws concerning child labor, and thought that photos of the work children did would be more effective persuaders than mere speeches and statistics. Hine traveled the nation with his camera taking photographs, sometimes despite risk to his person.
The text of the book serves partly as a brief biography of Lewis Hine, and partly as explanatory backdrop for the scenes in the photographs. Freeman gives enough background information to put the images in their context, but not so much data as to overwhelm the reader. The machines, tools and environments are so strange to the modern eye that without clarification, many pictures would be meaningless.
The most shocking photographs in the collection are of the young boys involved in the coalmines. The filth on their faces, hands and clothing is astonishing. By comparison, the dangers and deplorable conditions of working in a cotton mill are not as readily apparent as those of working in a coal mine. However, reading Freeman's text exposes the dangers of moving machinery and smothering lint and humidity not so clear in the photos.
The book concludes by sharing the changes in child labor laws that Hine's photographs helped bring about, as well as information on the child labor situation of today.
This book is full of eye opening and shocking information for the unaware. School may be hard, but without child labor laws things could be so much worse.