The Library of Congress will celebrate the 200th anniversary of American poet and changemaker Walt Whitman’s birthday in spring 2019 with a series of exhibits, public programs and a digital crowdsourcing campaign to showcase the Library’s unparalleled collections of Whitman’s writings and artifacts.
The Library’s Whitman Bicentennial series will be part of the citywide Walt Whitman 200 Festival and other commemorations in the Mid-Atlantic where Whitman spent most of his life. Whitman was born May 31, 1819, and died March 26, 1892. He spent about 10 years living and writing in Washington. During the Civil War, he volunteered in military hospitals in the city to provide emotional support to wounded soldiers.
Whitman worked as a schoolteacher, printer, newspaper editor, journalist, carpenter, freelance writer and civil servant, but he is best known as one of America’s most famous poets – and as a poet of democracy.
The Library holds the most extensive array of Whitman and Whitman-related collections in the world, including manuscripts, rare books, prints and photographs. Collection items range from handwritten drafts of poems and early prose writings to rare editions of “Leaves of Grass,” Whitman’s eyeglasses and walking stick and the most famous studio portraits taken in his lifetime. The manuscript collections are digitized and available online, as are many photographs.
The Whitman Bicentennial series is part of a yearlong initiative in 2019 inviting visitors to Explore America’s Changemakers.