Based on a handout from Mrs Kim's class
Carl Sandburg, though perhaps best known for his poetry, was not just a poet but also a reporter, novelist, historian, biographer, politician, lecturer and folk singer. Born in Galesburg, IL in the midst of an economic depression, he grew up in and around Chicago. As the son of Swedish immigrants working long hours for low pay, he was no stranger to poverty, and quit school at the age of fourteen to begin work himself. At a very long age, he was exposed to bad working conditions (the most shocking being the Haymarket tragedy) and quickly became involved in politics, dedicating himself to socialism. At nineteen, he began to travel west, living as a hobo and honing his writing skills by keeping a journal. He joined the army the following year and fought in the Spanish-American War. From that point on, he would fluctuate between anti- and pro-war sentiments. As a veteran, however, he was able to attend Lombard College for free. Although he did not stay to graduate, it is here that he began to study journalism and, inspired by Walt Whitman, take an interest in poetry.
Sandburg began his career as a writer by working at newspapers in New York and New Jersey. It is here that his activism grew into an "investigative interest" in the country's economic strife. From there, he held many jobs and traveled around the country, becoming more active in socialism and more radical in his writing. Soon, his major outlet was poetry. In the early 1900s, he married Lillian Steichen (whose name he changed to Paula), who he absolutely adored and who was incredibly supportive of his work. This was the most political time of his life. Memorable publications include the socialist pamphlet "You and Your Job."
In 1916, Sandburg published The Chicago Poems. His poems were marked as unconventional and shocking. During World War I, he served as a war correspondent in Stockholm, where he was able to experience the Russian Revolution first hand. Upon returning, he became less politically active due to the Red Scare, and was able to turn to other issues, such as race. He had already made a great impact as a reporter when he covered the Chicago Race Riots. Later, he would present the platform for the NAACP in a newspaper and write a book The Chicago Race Riots July 1919. He also took time to be with his family and even wrote a book of children's stories, Rootabaga Stories. He then went on to write his Lincoln biography series, a political figure he and his wife had long admired, and The American Songbag, a collection of folk songs and their histories.
Sandburg's fame was realized when he read his poem "Good Morning America" at Harvard, was taken on a tour of the white house, and gave a radio speech to an estimated 80 million listeners calling for the people to reelect FDR. He went on to win two Pulitzer prizes in his life: one for his Lincoln biographies in 1940 and for poetry (The Complete Poems) in 1951. Carl continued lecturing and gave an address to Congress on Lincoln's 150th birthday. He recieved the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 just before his death in 1967 at age 89.
Meltzer, Milton. Carl Sandburg: A Biography. Brookfield: The Milbrook Press, Inc., 1999.
A sample of Carl Sandburg's Poetry.