Poet. Considered one of America's foremost men of letters, he was born on Long Island, New York. His mother was barely literate, and his father was a friend of Revolutionary War patriot Thomas Paine. Walt Whitman was taken out of school at the age of 11 to help support the large family, and he learned the printer's trade, which began a life-long love affair with reading and the written word. He was mostly self-taught, but knew the Bible thoroughly, and was fond of the works of William Shakespeare, Homer and Dante Alighieri. He became a teacher in 1836 at the age of 17, and continued to teach until 1841, when he turned to journalism as a full-time career. While briefly serving as editor of the "New Orleans Crescent" in 1848, he witnessed the cruelty of slavery at the New Orleans, Louisiana slave markets. He became an abolitionist, and upon returning to New York founded the free-soil newspaper the "Brooklyn Freeman". He wrote "Leaves of Grass" in July of 1855 and so astonished Ralph Waldo Emerson that he wrote to Whitman to say "I had to rub my eyes to see if the sunbeam was no illusion." Two of Whitman's more famous poems are "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed" and "O Captain! My Captain!". During the Civil War he served as a volunteer nurse. Whitman continued to edit, revise, and reissue "Leaves of Grass" throughout his life.
Bio by: Kristen Conrad