DID YOU HEAR THE ONE about the rich getting to keep their tax loopholes and havens while the numbers of poor people in the United States grow and grow? It’s no joke.

On the heels of the summer blockbuster known variously as the Congressional Budget Crisis Showdown, Debt Ceiling Debacle, Fiscal Armageddon (Averted), or my favorite, Wet Hot Vomitous American Summer, Princeton University Professor Cornel West and veteran broadcaster Tavis Smiley embarked on a fifteen-city, cross-country bus tour (underway as of this writing) that they’re calling “The Poverty Tour: A Call to Conscience.” The road trip, say Smiley and West, is intended to highlight “the plight of poor people of all races, colors, and creeds so they will not be forgotten, ignored, or rendered invisible during this difficult and dangerous time of economic deprivation and political cowardice.” To enable such visibility the two are hosting town hall meetings in some of the hardest-hit cities in the United States, also taking requests from poor families in each city and scheduling meetings with them so they can share their personal stories of hardship, all of which will be broadcast online. Documentary filmmakers and an embedded Washington Post reporter are also covering the tour.

These efforts are not unlike those of Lewis Hine, who we pay tribute to in this issue of the Humanist. Hine was an Ethical Culture School instructor who became a photographer in the early twentieth century and saw an opportunity to bring about social reform through his pictures. He recorded the poverty he saw in New York’s tenements and sweatshops. He documented the lives of immigrants and child laborers. He photographed the consequences of drought in Arkansas and Kentucky, and documented the living conditions of French and Belgian civilians suffering from the impact of World War I. “I wanted to do something positive,” Hine once wrote, hoping his images would spur others to “exert the force to right wrongs.”

Readers may wonder why Hine isn’t a household name, especially upon seeing some of his iconic images here. After all, we’re often intrigued by artists’ personal lives and the influences on their work. But photographers—famous or otherwise—typically don’t garner such interest. Unless shutterbugs themselves, people don’t often see a great photograph and ask of the photographer, how’d you do it? At that point we’re too engrossed in the “truth” of what’s been captured to turn around and see the person holding the camera. But truth as captured on film lives on in the way pictures affect others. The images featured here and the accompanying poems by Terry Lockett remind us of the past and can also inspire a humanization of present struggles.

Also in this issue of the Humanist, we look back one decade to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in the excerpt from Nikki Stern’s book Because I Say So: The Dangerous Appeal of Moral Authority. Her reflections explore some interesting dilemmas and offer an important reckoning for anyone concerned about the direction our nation has been going in since—and even before—9/11. The ultimate question (to paraphrase the title of a well-known Joyce Carol Oates short story) might be posed as: Where are we going, where have we been?

Jennifer Bardi is the editor of the Humanist.