Today in History: Poet Wendell Berry born in 1934

August 5th, 2013

Poet Wendell Berry was born on August 5, 1934 in Kentucky to a family of tobacco farmers. He has won numerous awards for his work, including the National Humanities Medal. Berry was also selected as the 2012 Jefferson Lecturer, which recognizes distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities.

Berry spent his childhood working on his father’s farm. After attending the Millersburg Military Institute and then the University of Kentucky, Berry pursued a career as a writer, alongside professorships at New York University and the University of Kentucky. While Berry has published in many different literary genres—from poetry to fiction to nonfiction—all of his work reflects a deep appreciation for nature and community.

As Humanities editor David Skinner explains, Berry’s agrarian values can be linked to one of America’s most notable founders:

In the debate that set Thomas Jefferson against Alexander Hamilton—and rural farms against cities, and agriculture against banking interests—Berry stands with Jefferson. He stands for local culture and the small family farmer, for yeoman virtues and an economic and political order that is modest enough for its actions and rationales to be discernible. 

Explore Wendell Berry’s poetry with a selection from our American Calendar curriculum, “Independence Day,” in which the author celebrates America’s founding with an outing in the woods.

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