Read an Excerpt
Table of Contents
CHAPTER I - WHERE I WAS BORN
CHAPTER II - GIRLHOOD AND ITS SORROWS
CHAPTER III - HOW I GAINED MY FREEDOM
CHAPTER IV - IN THE FAMILY OF SENATOR JEFFERSON DAVIS
CHAPTER V - MY INTRODUCTION TO MRS. LINCOLN
CHAPTER VI - WILLIE LINCOLN’S DEATH-BED
CHAPTER VII - WASHINGTON IN 1862-3
CHAPTER VIII - CANDID OPINIONS
CHAPTER IX - BEHIND THE SCENES
CHAPTER X - THE SECOND INAUGURATION
CHAPTER XI - THE ASSASSINATION OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN
CHAPTER XII - MRS. LINCOLN LEAVES THE WHITE HOUSE
CHAPTER XIII - THE ORIGIN OF THE RIVALRY BETWEEN MR. DOUGLAS AND MR. LINCOLN
CHAPTER XIV - OLD FRIENDS
CHAPTER XV - THE SECRET HISTORY OF MRS. LINCOLN’S WARDROBE IN NEW YORK
BEHIND THE SCENES
ELIZABETH HOBBS KECKLEY (1818-1907) was born a slave near Dinwiddie Court House, Virginia, but purchased her freedom at the age of thirty-seven and set up a successful dressmaking business in Washington, D.C., in 1860. After serving as a seamstress for Varina Davis, wife of the Mississippi senator Jefferson Davis, Keckley became the modiste for Mary Todd Lincoln, the First Lady of the United States, shortly after Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated president of the United States in 1861. Gaining ready access to the Lincoln family by virtue of her constant employment by Mrs. Lincoln, Keckley spent much of the next four years in the White House, where she became not only Mary Todd Lincoln’s dressmaker but her friend and confidante. After President Lincoln was assassinated in the spring of 1865 and his widow moved back to Illinois, Keckley remained a trusted advisor and support to Mrs. Lincoln. Stung by public criticism of her efforts to help the debt-ridden former First Lady raise money by selling her expensive wardrobe, Keckley tried to defend herself in her autobiography, Behind the Scenes, Or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House, which was published in New York in 1868. Keckley’s intimate perspective on the relationship between the martyred president and his wife, along with the publication of many letters from Mrs. Lincoln to Keckley, made Behind the Scenes instantly controversial as an “indecent book” authored by a “traitorous eavesdropper.” Returning to her business, Keckley lived and worked in Washington, D.C., until 1892, when she moved to Ohio to accept a position as head of Wilberforce University’s Domestic Science department. She died in 1907, a resident of the National Home for Destitute Colored Women and Children in Washington, D.C.
WILLIAM L. ANDREWS, E. Maynard Adams Professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is the author of The Literary Career of Charles W. Chesnutt (1980) and To Tell a Free Story: The First Century of Afro-American Autobiography, 1760-1865 (1986). He is the editor or coeditor of more than thirty books on African American literature, including The Oxford Companion to African American Literature (1997), The Norton Anthology of African American Literature (2003), and North Carolina Slave Narratives (2003). He has held research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the American Philosophical Society, and has been a fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Group (Canada), 10 Alcorn Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England
Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd)
Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124,
Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)
Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017, India Penguin Group (NZ), cnr Airborne and Rosedale Roads, Albany, Auckland 1310, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices; 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England
First published in the United States of America by G. W. Carleton & Co., Publishers 1868
This edition with an introduction and notes by William L. Andrews published in Penguin Books 2005
Introduction and notes copyright © William L. Andrews, 2005
All rights reserved
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Keckley, Elizabeth, ca. 1818-1907.
Behind the scenes, or, Thirty years a slave and four years in the White House / Elizabeth Keckley ; introduction and notes by William L. Andrews. p. cm.—(Penguin classics)
Originally published: New York: G. W. Carleton & Co., 1868.
eISBN : 978-1-101-00732-7
1. Keckley, Elizabeth, ca. 1818-1907. 2. African American women—Biography. 3. Women slaves—United
States—Biography. 4. Dressmakers—United States—Biography. 5. Slaves—United States—Biography.
6. Lincoln, Mary Todd, 1818-1882-Relations with African Americans. 7. Lincoln, Abraham,
1809-1865—Relations with African Americans. I. Title: Behind the scenes. II. Title: Thirty years a slave and four years in the White House. III. Andrews, William L., 1946- IV. Title. V. Series.
Set in Sabon
The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
Note on the Text
This edition of Behind the Scenes reprints the original 1868 edition, as published by G. W. Carleton & Company. The original spelling, capitalization, punctuation, paragraphing, and chapter and section divisions in the 1868 edition have been preserved in this edition, except when there is an inconsistency of spelling within a text, the evident result of a printer’s error. Keckley’s original footnotes are reprinted as they appeared in the 1868 edition. All numbered annotations to the text are provided by the editor of this Penguin Classics edition.