Skip navigation
Media File
Walt Whitman
Date: 1819 - 1892
Remarks: Whitman dropped out of school and joined the print industry at the age of twelve. Mostly self-taught, Whitman became interested in reading and writing. After studying Shakespeare, Dante and other literary greats, Whitman decided to write his own works. When a fire destroyed the print industry in New York, Whitman became a teacher on Long Island. Five years later, he became a full time journalist, founding the weekly newspaper Long-Islander. In 1848, Whitman became a journalist in New Orleans where he first experienced the horrors of slavery and the slave market. Returning to Brooklyn that year, Whitman founded a "free soil" newspaper called the 'Brooklyn Freeman.' In 1855, Whitman published his first edition of his famous book of poetry, 'Leaves of Grass.' He sent the edition to Emerson who wrote back praising the book. Later editions contain this letter and a response by Whitman. This book was revolutionary in its free style, sexual content, and its celebration of the individual. He published multiple editions, each with more poetry. Whitman also campaigned for Van Buren in 1840 and worked in Washington DC for eleven years, starting with Civil War hospitals and later working as a clerk in the Department of the Interior. He lost the last job because the Secretary of the Interior thought his poems were vulgar.