Walt Whitman, one of America’s most celebrated writers, was born into a working-class Long Island family on May 31, 1819. Four years later, the family moved to Brooklyn. Whitman cherished his memory of Revolutionary War hero General Lafayette visiting New York in August 1824. According to Whitman, Lafayette picked him out of the crowd, lifted him up, and carried him.
After Whitman’s formal education ended when he was 11, he worked at a Brooklyn law firm and later at various newspapers. These positions afforded Whitman the opportunity for self-education and encouraged his interest in politics. Whitman openly supported the Free-Soil Party, formed in 1848 to oppose the extension of slavery into the Western territories. This would eventually cost him his job at the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, as his convictions clashed with those of Issac Van Anden, the newspaper’s publisher.
In 1855, Whitman published the first edition of Leaves of…
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