Art Hx: Visual and Medical Legacies of British Colonialism

A view of the Five Points neighborhood, a wide intersection of five dirt streets lined by two-story buildings. The intersection is filled by a crowd of people who are depicted stereotypically as poor, raucous, and fighting among each other. Black and white people interact, a pig runs through the center of the scene, and women lean out of second-story windows.

Title: The Five Points

Artist/Maker: Unknown

Date: ca. 1827

Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Copyright/Permissions: Public Domain

References: Tyler Anbinder. Five Points: the 19th-century New York City Neighborhood that Invented Tap Dance, Stole Elections, and Became the World’s Most Notorious Slum. New York; London: Free Press, 2001.

Location(s): The Five Points, New York

Commentary: The Five Points neighborhood was hit hard by the cholera epidemic of 1832 in New York City. At the time, neighborhood was largely made up of newly-arrived immigrants and Black Americans. Black communities were overrepresented as sanitation workers in the city and were disproportionately affected by cholera. The popular perception of Five Points shown in this image had discriminatory consequences which influenced the public health response to the 1832 cholera outbreak.


Art Hx