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Orphan Trains and Carlisle

Updated July 1, 2022

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Orphan trains and Carlisle and the ways people from the past undermined the minorities and children of America. The film “The orphan Trains” tells us the story of children who were taken from the streets of New York City and put on trains to rural America.

A traffic in immigrant children were developed and droves of them teamed the streets of New York (A People’s History of the United States 1492-present, 260). The streets of NYC were dirty, overcrowded, and dangerous. Just as street gangs had female auxiliaries, they also had farm leagues for children (These are the Good Old Days, 19). During the time of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s many people were trying to help children.

Progressive reformers, often called “child saver,” attempted to curb exploitation of children (The American Promise, 834). One of the people who was obsessed with the plight of children was a man named Charles Brace. He created the NY “Children’s Aid Society”. This was a program that was best known for “Orphan Trains”. In 1853, Brace founded this society to arrange trips, raise the money, and obtain legal permission needed for relocation (the Orphan trains, 1). The reaction to the orphan trains were both positive and negative.

The main reason for the orphan trains was not to necessarily help the children but to clean up the streets. The children were treated horrible. They were forced to join in gangs to survive and live on the streets. These children were also known as “street Arabs”. Children are still being neglected and abused.

The film” Violence in American Tradition” shows a case form the late 1980’s. The case involved Lisa Steinberg and how she was murdered by her father. The viewer has to wonder why this wasn’t prevented. After watching “Orphan Trains” the viewer sees haw people tried to solve the problem with children on the streets.

There was a lot of controversy over this subject. People didn’t know if it was better to take a child from his/her parent that was suppressed in poverty or send the child to a farm or elsewhere to work and start a new life. Brace believed the farmers would welcome homeless children, take them into their homes and treat them as their own (The Orphan Trains, 2). Some of the children were treated fairly while others were treated like slaves. For example, when Elliot Bobo went on the orphan train and was dropped off he was approached by a farmer.

The farmer went up to him and made remarks like “Oh, you’d make a good hand on the farm.” With that remark Elliot reacted with a bit and a kick. “Everybody in the audience thought I was incorrigible. They didn’t want me because I was out of control.” This was one of the different things that happened to the children while being shipped off and shipped out. This film surprised me. I never knew that that happened to children in those days. Slavery wasn’t just the Negroes and Indians.

It made me think how lucky I am to live in the day in age that I do, even though there are still children treated like this. I just was lucky and grew up in a good family. The film had missed emotions but you can develop one conclusion from the film. While certain people are trying to help children others are abusing their rights. This didn’t make much sense. Their view does understand that there is a stronger need for the protection of children.

People in the past worked hard for the future of children whether it was good or bad they thoughts were mostly positive. I fpeople of the future don’t continue this trend but in a safer and more humane way than the work from the past will have been useless. When we first started watching the film on the Indian children I thought it was going to be helpful. But, as the movie progressed it made me realize that the Indians were being mistreated and were being brainwashed into forgetting their culture.

The film “In the Image of the White Man”, deal with breaking down the culture of the Indians and turning them “white”. Richard Pratt, was the man who wanted to incorporate or immerse the Indian culture into the white mans world. “In Indian civilization I am a Baptist, because I believe in immersing the Indians in our civilization and when we get them under holding them there until they are thoroughly soaked” ( Carlisle Indian Industrial School History,2). The Children in this school had their entire identity transformed. The boys had their hair cut and both boys and girls were given new names. Richard Pratt knew that the children were the future and if he could change them he could wipe out the Indian culture.

The children went from wearing moccasins to leather boots, beads to army uniforms, and the only time they would cut their hair normally was in the case of mourning. The children felt like an imitation of a white child. The Carlisle school, forbid the children to speak their native tongue to take away their heritage. Their lives were run as if they were training to be soldiers and had to listen for the commands of the trumpets and the whistles. The Indians learnt Christian hymns and religion.

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Orphan Trains and Carlisle. (2018, Dec 01). Retrieved from