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Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty years a slave, and Four Years in the White House Paperback – October 23, 2013
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"A remarkable vantage point on the Civil War" --Chicago Sun Times
About the Author
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book was a real page-turner. Couldn't put it down....and then, it ended! Not sure why she quit writing when she did, but a little more information would have made it a real... Read morePublished 2 days ago by Rebecca
This book interested me because I had only heard of Mary Lincoln being crazy. This account made her seem more human. Read morePublished 7 days ago by Rebecca Meadows
I enjoyed the book very much. Great additional reading when studying Mrs. Lincoln.Published 25 days ago by chris
Love reading about the history of our nation..more people of today should read and remember...how our nation came to bePublished 1 month ago by Margaret Shuffstall
I really enjoyed reading this book! It was as if I were there at that particular era the author was very good it was real to life!Published 1 month ago by Deloris Hall
What a wonderful and surprisingly well written memoir of a black woman who began her life as a slave, and through hard work, advanced to be the seamstress and confidant of the wife... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Candace Warren