Behind the Scenes

by Elizabeth Keckley

Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House is an autobiographical narrative by Elizabeth Keckley. In it she tells the story of her life as a slave and her time as a seamstress for Mrs. Lincoln in the White House.

Source: Keckley, E. (1868) Behind the Scenes London, England: Partridge and Oakey

A preface by the author, giving some background about the book and her own life.
Chapter 1: Where I Was Born
The author discusses the place of her birth and her memories of her parents.
Chapter 2: Girlhood and its Sorrows
Elizabeth goes to live with her master's eldest son.
Chapter 3: How I Gained My Freedom
Elizabeth is given the opportunity to purchase the freedom of herself and her son.
Chapter 4: In the Family of Senator Jefferson Davis
Elizabeth goes to work for the Davis family as a free woman.
Chapter 5: My Introduction to Mrs. Lincoln
Now in Washington D.C., Elizabeth is introduced to Mrs. Lincoln.
Chapter 6: Willie Lincoln's Death-bed
Elizabeth is once again called to work at the White House. Willie Lincoln's health continues to worsen.
Chapter 7: Washington in 1862-1863
As the Civil War continues to escalate, the members of the Lincoln family begin to feel the strain of the conflict. Willie's death continues to affect Mrs. Lincoln.
Chapter 8: Candid Opinions
While working in the White House, Elizabeth overhears the private conversations of the President and Mrs. Lincoln.
Chapter 9: Behind the Scenes
Elizabeth describes her interactions with new freedmen and freedwomen in the White House. Mrs. Lincoln's debts continue to grow.
Chapter 10: The Second Inauguration
Mrs. Lincoln pays a visit to Elizabeth regarding a dress for the President's inauguration.
Chapter 11: The Assassination of President Lincoln
Elizabeth receives bad news regarding the President and his cabinet.
Chapter 12: Mrs. Lincoln leaves the White House Behind the Scenes
Following the death of President Lincoln, Mrs. Lincoln prepares to leave the White House. Elizabeth's business continues to prosper.
Chapter 13: The Origin of the Rivalry between Mr. Douglas and Mr. Lincoln
Elizabeth recounts Mr. Douglas' attempted courting of Miss Mary Todd.
Chapter 14: Old Friends
Elizabeth reminisces about Mrs. Anne Garland and her family.
Chapter 15: The Secret History of Mrs. Lincoln's Wardrobe in New York
Mrs. Lincoln's debts force her to part with some of her wardrobe.
Appendix—Letters from Mrs. Lincoln to Mrs. Keckley
Various correspondence between Mrs. Lincoln and Elizabeth.
  • Year Published: 1868
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: United States of America
  • Readability:
    • Flesch–Kincaid Level: 7.4
  • Word Count: 60,930
  • Genre: Memoir
  • Keywords: 19th century literature, african american literature, american history, american literature, autobiography, behind the scenes, biography
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