The Evolution of Walt Whitman’s “O Captain! My Captain!”

The Library of Congress houses the largest archival collection of Walt Whitman materials in the world, all of which have are now available online. Seeing portions of Whitman’s poems in various stages of composition reveals both his very active creative mind and his innovative ways of seeing the world and crafting poetic expressions.

Expanding Student Understanding of Slavery in America by Exploring an Arabic Muslim Slave Narrative

In the January-February 2019 issue of Social Education, the journal of the National Council for the Social Studies, our “Sources and Strategies” article discusses the Life of Omar ibn Said, the only known extant narrative written in Arabic by an enslaved person in the United States. Analyzing this unique manuscript provides students with an opportunity to expand their understanding of some of the people who were brought to the United States from Africa to be enslaved. How educated were they? What did they believe?

Sergeants Robert A. Pinn and William H. Thomas: African American Entrants in William O. Bourne’s Left-Handed Penmanship Contests, 1865-1867

In 1866, William O. Bourne organized a unique left-handed penmanship contest for Union veterans who had lost the use of their right hand. Veterans were encouraged to submit a letter they had written using their left hand and a total prize money of $1000.00 was offered. The Library of Congress holds the many of the entrants’ letters and other information on Bourne and the contest.

“When Johnny Comes Marching Home” Marches Across Time

Sometimes listeners are surprised to find a familiar tune lurking behind the lyrics of a new song. Songwriters may revisit and reuse existing compositions, hoping to catch a listener’s attention through something familiar. The Civil War era song “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” not only resembles an earlier song, but also inspired a number of parodies.

Sojourner Truth and the Power of a Portrait

A photograph of the abolitionist and suffrage activist Sojourner Truth that appears in the Library’s newest Primary Source Set for educators, “Civil War Images: Depictions of African Americans in the War Effort,” provides an opportunity to discover the questions that the objects in a portrait can raise about the message that image might have been meant to convey.

A Civil War Nurse’s Memoir: Discerning Women’s Experiences

Primary sources such as the letters and diaries of Civil War Nurse Mary Ann Bickerdyke offer rich insights into the lives of real people. The fragmented, personal nature of these sources requires careful reading in context and comparison across multiple accounts to glean information and construct understanding.