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

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

by Elizabeth Keckley
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Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House by Elizabeth Keckley

2017 Reprint of 1868 Edition. An autobiographical narrative, Behind the Scenes traces Elizabeth Keckley's life from her enslavement in Virginia and North Carolina to her time as seamstress to Mary Todd Lincoln in the White House during Abraham Lincoln's administration. It was quite controversial at the time of its release--an uncompromising work that transgressed Victorian boundaries between public and private life, and lines of race, gender, and society.

Keckley's first 30 years were spent as a slave, and the cruelties and injustices of her life are related clearly and succinctly. This enlightening memoir recounts how she was beaten and how she became a dressmaker to support her master and his family, how determined she was to purchase freedom for herself and her son, how her friends in St. Louis came to her aid, how she became Mary Todd Lincoln's dressmaker and close friend, and her perspectives and experiences from her inside view of Lincoln's White House. Keckley emerges as a calm and confident person who speaks of a very tumultuous period of American history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780195060843
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date: 12/01/1989
Series: Schomburg Library of Nineteenth-Century Black Women Writers Series
Edition description: REPRINT
Pages: 404
Sales rank: 1,183,604
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 4.60(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Elizabeth Keckley (1818-1907) was a former slave turned successful seamstress who is most notably known as being Mary Todd Lincoln's personal modiste and confidante, and the author of her autobiography, Behind the Scenes Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House. Mrs. Keckly utilized her intelligence, keen business savvy, and sewing and design skills to arrange and ultimately buy her freedom (and that of her son George as well), and later enjoyed regular business with the wives of the government elite as her base clientele. After several years in St. Louis, she moved to Washington, D.C. in the spring of 1860, where she had the country's most elite women of the time requesting her services. Through shrewd networking and hard work, she ended up making gowns and dresses for more notable wives such as Mrs. Varina Davis, wife of Jefferson Davis, and Mrs. Mary Anne Randolph Custis Lee, wife of Robert E. Lee. Of all her clients, she had the closest and most long-standing relationship with Mary Todd Lincoln, devoting many of her days during Abraham Lincoln's administration to being available to her and the First Family in a myriad of ways.

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Behind the scenes, or, Thirty years a slave and four years in the White House 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Elizabeth Marin More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Gretchen1 More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be extremely compelling and well-written. When you think that the author was a former slave who rose up from a horrific childhood to becoming a successful businesswoman, it's great.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book gave the reader and inside look at Mrs Lincoln and things that went on in her everyday life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
juliettehendrikx More than 1 year ago
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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Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
EmilyCharlotte More than 1 year ago
All she wrote about were her excellent moral choices, how she loved Lincoln, and very disparaging remarks about the first lady.