Using personal stories, Civil War notebooks, and headlines from the news, Patriots explores the concept of patriotism by looking at the lives of two very different figures in American history: Walt Whitman and Strom Thurmond. Both men are part of American history and both loved their country. Which life story has more to tell us about what America really stands for?
Walt Whitman is most famous for his sprawling, passionate, and patriotic poetry. Less examined is his time spent during the Civil War working as nurse and tending to the wounded. The simple, fragmented notebooks he kept during this time demonstrate his love of the Union even more than the exuberant and carefully edited poems that made him famous.
Senator Strom Thurmond, though he also considered himself a patriot, made his name as a proponent of States' Rights and asserted that Americans should be ruled by the morals of their own communities. His legacy as a staunch segregationist has been recently complicated by the revelation that he maintained a relationship with a secret African-American daughter for sixty years.