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Today in History

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow [Henry Wadsworth] Longfellow.
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Prints and Photographs Online Catalog.
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Today in History is a feature that highlights significant events or figures in American history associated with a particular day. Every Today in History feature includes a brief essay supported by primary resources, followed by a bulleted listed which offers suggestions for finding related Library of Congress resources. Below are Today in History features that highlight poets or poetry-related events.

Today in History Poetry Features


Louisa May Alcott

On November 29, Louisa May Alcott was born. Best known as the author of Little Women, Alcott was also an accomplished poet.

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar was born on June 27, 1872 in Dayton, Ohio. Although he only lived to be thirty-three, Dunbar achieved international acclaim as a poet, short story writer, novelist, dramatist, and lyricist.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Essayist, philosopher, and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in Boston on May 25, 1803.

Langston Hughes

Poet and writer Langston Hughes, famous for his elucidations of black American life in his poems, stories, autobiographies, and histories, was born in Joplin, Missouri, on February 1, 1902.

James Weldon Johnson

Poet, diplomat, songwriter, and anthologist of black culture James Weldon Johnson was born on June 17, 1871 in Jacksonville, Florida.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born on February 27, 1807, in Portland, Maine. During his lifetime, Longfellow's poetry enjoyed extraordinary popularity at home and abroad.

Archibald MacLeish

Archibald MacLeish, poet, dramatist, and ninth Librarian of Congress, was born on May 7, 1892, in Glencoe, Illinois.

Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe, born on January 19, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Henry David Thoreau

Poet, philosopher, and naturalist Henry David Thoreau was born on July 12, 1817, in Concord, Massachusetts.

Robert Penn Warren

Writer, critic, and teacher Robert Penn Warren died on September 15, 1989. During his long and distinguished literary carer, Warren was twice associated with the Library of Congress. In 1944-45, he served the Library as Consultant in Poetry and in 1986 Warren was named the first Poet Laureate of the United States.

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman, American poet, journalist, and essayist, was born on May 31, 1819, in West Hills, New York. His verse collection Leaves of Grass is a landmark in the history of American literature.


John Keats, “To Autumn” (second entry)

On September 19, 1819, English poet John Keats, inspired by the beauty of the changing season, wrote "To Autumn," a three-stanza ode to the splendor, bounty, and melancholy of fall.

Clement Moore, “A Visit From St. Nicholas”

Clement Moore is thought to have composed "The Night Before Christmas" on December 24, 1822, while traveling home from Greenwich Village, where he had bought a turkey for his family's Christmas dinner.

Walt Whitman, “O Captain! My Captain!”

On February 9, 1888, Walt Whitman penned a note to the publishers of The Riverside Literature Series No. 32 calling attention to mistakes in their recently printed version of his poem, "O Captain! My Captain!" "Somehow you have got a couple of bad perversions in 'O Captain,'" he wrote, "I send you a corrected sheet."


Opening of Playwrights’ Theater

The experimental Playwrights' Theater opened its first New York season on November 3, 1916, at 139 MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village. Harry Kemp spent a year with the the theater's Provincetown Players in 1916 and opened his own Poetry Theater in Greenwich Village in 1921. He shared his musings and his poetry with writer May Swenson of the Federal Writers' Project in the American Life Histories, 1936-1940 interview, "Tramp Poet."

Robert Frost at Kennedy’s Inauguration (second entry)

On January 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy distinguished his inaugural ceremony with a poetry reading by fellow New Englander Robert Frost.

Phillis Wheatley becomes first African-American poet to have a volume of poetry published

On September 1, 1773, Phillis Wheatley's Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral was published in London England. Wheatley's collection was the first volume of poetry by an African-American poet to be published. Often called the "Black Prodigy," she was approximately twenty-one at the time.

Shakespeare's and the Folger (second entry)

William Shakespeare was baptized on April 26, 1564, in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, England.


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  April 25, 2017
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