The Bard of Democracy – Walt Whitman

Day 24 of Colourisation Project – May 31

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

Born this day in 1819, Walter “Walt” Whitman is considered by many, one of America’s most influential poets. An essayist and journalist, his writings reflected his humanist nature.  Whitman has been described as the first American “bard of democracy”. He held strong democratic values and was an outspoken proponent for the abolition of slavery, for women’s property rights, immigration and for an equitable society.

Walt Whitman

Photographer unknown – Library of Congress – Feinberg/Whitman Collection – 1854 Walt Whitman aged 36. Coloured by Loredana Crupi

He is often called the father of free verse as his work broke the boundaries of poetic form and was generally prose-like. His work was very controversial in its time, particularly his major work, a poetry collection titled Leaves of Grass. First published in 1855 with his own money, it was generally viewed as obscene for its overt sexual themes. His writings also gave rise to much debate around Whitman’s own sexual orientation. 

Although he suffered a stroke in 1873, he continued to write for a further two decades working on Leaves of Grass, which during his lifetime had gone through seven editions and expanded to some 300 poems. He passed away in 1892.

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“Re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul.”  Walt Whitman

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