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Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House (The Schomburg Library of Nineteenth-Century Black Women Writers) Paperback – December 14, 1989
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Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The story was simple and yet it presented a very intimate glimpse into the genuine personalities of Abraham and Mary and the life the author shared with them. Elizabeth Keckley was not writing to impress anyone with her "insider" position in the White House, she was just sharing her story.
The stories about her life as a slave also offered the reader an opportunity to experience slavery through the eyes and heart of a slave.
How lucky we are that she wrote this book.
Why Elizabeth Keckley wrote this intimate chronicle at the height of her involvement with Mary Lincoln is a puzzle. She thought she was justifying Mrs. Lincoln, whose erratic behavior was always under fire by observers and the press. We must read between the lines for insights into Keckley's motivation, and that's precisely what makes the book so fascinating.
Keckley revered President Lincoln as the liberator of her people. But she portrays Mary Lincoln as paranoid, jealous, capricious, extravagant and prone to hysterics. At the same time, Keckley shows great sympathy for Mrs. Lincoln's sufferings.
The memoirs begin with an account of Keckley's life as a slave and how she rose to become a fashionable dressmaker, able to buy freedom for herself and her son. As a free black in Washington, her talents and entrepreneurial spirit won her the patronage of the elite.
Eventually she became Mrs. Lincoln's dress designer, personal maid and confidant, heavily relied upon in every crisis. She also became an activist, organizing relief for penniless newly freed slaves.
What followed the memoirs? Troubles of every sort. Mrs. Lincoln was at one point committed to an insane asylum by her son. Keckley never benefited from her memoirs. She spent her last years in a home she herself had founded for destitute women, a picture of Mrs. Lincoln hanging in her room.
Elizabeth Keckley's autobiography is a remarkable document, and I heartily recommend it to anyone interested in Black history, the Civil War - or the complex psychology of human relationships.
to have written other books.
I would like to have read more about Mrs. Keckley's experiences as a child and young adult. One reviewer put it well that the 30 years Elizabeth was a slave covered such a short portion of this book, while her four years in the White House and several years afterward claimed most of this work.
Mrs. Keckley states in the beginning of this tale that part of the reason she wrote this book was to "attempt to place Mrs. Lincoln in a better light before the world". Personally, I don't believe that this goal was met. While Mrs. Keckley shares some lovely inside moments in the lives of the Lincolns, the overall impression I was left with regarding Mary Todd Lincoln after reading this book was that Mrs. Lincoln had some severe problems...and not just of a financial nature.
Much has been speculated and written about Mary Lincoln and what drove her. Was she simply an outspoken woman who was ahead of her time or was she mentally unbalanced?
The evidence of this book, to me at least, seems to point strongly to the latter. At the very least she had extremely entitled, narcissistic tendencies.
The letters included in the latter part of the book from Mary Lincoln to the author are disturbing to say the least. Reading Mary Lincoln's constant missives to this woman, who was a trusted friend and who closed down the shop that provided her livelihood so that she could attend to Mrs. Lincoln's interests in New York, proved to be quite irritating to me.
Mrs. Lincoln's whining about how poorly treated she was by just about everybody and how destitute she was grew tiresome.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This was an interesting yet at the same time painful story to read. Elizabeth really had a hard life, but worked diligently to overcome her slave status and earlier abuses. Read morePublished 16 days ago by ahammerquilts
This is such a rich, beautifully written account of the civil war years. It's as though I actually stood before the Lincoln's in their private chamber and witnessed the streets of... Read morePublished 17 days ago by JJ
I was interested in this account by Elizabeth Keckley as I have always been interested in the tragic figure of Mary Todd Lincoln. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Karen
This was a very interesting book, along with her perspective. I had heard rumors of Mrs. Lincoln's spending difficulties, and this somewhat clarified the situation, and shed more... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Fair
I love reading these kinds of stories. My heart goes out to all the slaves weather black or white.Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer