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
- 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
Keckley, E. (1868). Behind the Scenes. (Lit2Go ed.). Retrieved May 21, 2022, from
Keckley, Elizabeth. Behind the Scenes. Lit2Go Edition. 1868. Web. <>. May 21, 2022.
Elizabeth Keckley, Behind the Scenes, Li2Go edition, (1868), accessed May 21, 2022,.