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Behind the Scenes: or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House

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Overview

Originally published in 1868—when it was attacked as an “indecent book” authored by a “traitorous eavesdropper”—Behind the Scenes is the story of Elizabeth Keckley, who began her life as a slave and became a privileged witness to the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. Keckley bought her freedom at the age of thirty-seven and set up a successful dressmaking business in Washington, D.C. She became modiste to Mary Todd Lincoln and in time her friend and confidante, a relationship that continued after Lincoln’s ...

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Behind the Scenes: or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House

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Overview

Originally published in 1868—when it was attacked as an “indecent book” authored by a “traitorous eavesdropper”—Behind the Scenes is the story of Elizabeth Keckley, who began her life as a slave and became a privileged witness to the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. Keckley bought her freedom at the age of thirty-seven and set up a successful dressmaking business in Washington, D.C. She became modiste to Mary Todd Lincoln and in time her friend and confidante, a relationship that continued after Lincoln’s assassination. In documenting that friendship—often using the First Lady’s own letters—Behind the Scenes fuses the slave narrative with the political memoir. It remains extraordinary for its poignancy, candor, and historical perspective.

  • First time in Penguin Classics
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143039242
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 7/26/2005
  • Series: Penguin Classics Series
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 283,552
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 7.86 (h) x 0.54 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley (1818–1907) was born a slave near Dinwiddie Court House, Virginia, and, after purchasing her freedom, became head of the Domestic Science Department at Wilberforce University in Ohio.

William L. Andrews is E. Maynard Adams Professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of To Tell a Free Story and editor or coeditor of more than thirty books on African American literature.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 16 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(7)

4 Star

(5)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(1)

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Sort by: Showing all of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 21, 2011

    Excellent Eyewitness Account of History

    I have to disagree with the previous commentor in regards to this book being ego driven. There is hardly anything glamorous about being a former slave who had to work her way out of poverty. Her story is inspiring. In regards to her relationship with the Lincolns, we have to remember that this is Ms. Keckley's point of view in how she interpreted the situations that occurred during that time. In my opinion, this book is an interesting read from start to finish.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2011

    Must read!

    For anyone interested in the issues of slavery or the Lincoln Presidency this is a fascinating look at the life of Elizabeth Keckley who must have been a brave and competent woman of her day.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2007

    A Great History Book!

    This is a really good book and i would recommend it to people. The story is about Elizabeth Keckley's life as a slave, a seamstress, and a friend of Mrs. Lincoln.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2012

    wow!

    wow!

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2008

    Mostly about Mrs. Lincolin

    The book talked about Mrs. Lincoln and not much about the history of the writer. The letters contained in the book got boring and repeated themselves.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2014

    Wonderful!

    Fascinating reading about the Lincolns from this very interesting woman. I am so glad I picked out this book as my only souvenir from the Lincoln library in Springfield. Now I have the Nook edition.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2014

    great historical book

    This book gave the reader and inside look at Mrs Lincoln and things that went on in her everyday life.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2014

    First hand history

    This is a great read, I love history and this is a first count hand given by a person that was there. Granted this is from her point of view, but still just incredible insight to a period of history that is long gone.

    The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is the ending just drops off.

    Otherwise like I said a wonderful insightful book. It cost her, Mrs. Keckley her friendship with Mrs. Lincoln....But wonderful

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  • Posted July 18, 2013

    This is one of the most remarkable memoirs I have read. Keckley

    This is one of the most remarkable memoirs I have read. Keckley speaks frankly about having been beaten as a slave, being forced to take a white slave owner as a lover, baring his child, and then traveling to Washington to set up a dress shop. It was there she met the Lincolns. Her time spent with them was the most interesting part of this tale so I wont spoiler the eye openers. The memoir was completely engrossing. A remarkable book.

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  • Posted June 20, 2010

    Don't waste your time reading these ego driven stories.

    All she wrote about were her excellent moral choices, how she loved Lincoln, and very disparaging remarks about the first lady.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 16 Customer Reviews

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