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


The particular book, “Behind the Scenes: or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House” by Elizabeth Keckley is known as one of the greatest autobiographies which provide the necessary insights about the historical era of Lincoln in the country. Undoubtedly, it can be identified as a story of the Civil War. This book comprises on different adventurous life events of Keckley’s life who help readers to understand the specific political scenario of the country through the lens of a lady who was the former slave and also performed her duties as the one worker of the White House. It is notable to mention that she spends thirty years of her life as the slave and after much struggle, she becomes able to maintain sustainability in her life. All the experiences share by keckley through this particular book helps to understand the lives of the slaves and how it become different after the phenomenal political development in the country. The specific aim of this research paper is to critically overview the opinions deliver by keckley in her book and establish the necessary insights about the Lincoln White House and this particular period of U.S. history in general from the life of the Elizabeth Keckley.


The opinions deliver by Keckley effectively indicate about the immense level of struggle which she had to face during slavery. She never gave up on her miserable life situation and strive to maintain better position in the American society. After the many years of struggle, she established herself as a seamstress. That particular profession can be considered as the milestone in her life as she met with Mrs. Lincoln who was the first lady of the country (Keckley, 83). The good interpersonal relationships between Keckley and Mrs. Lincoln ultimately leads her to become the personal seamstress of Mrs. Lincoln. Close bonding between her and Mrs. Lincoln made it essay for Keckley to closely observe the different paradigm of government and overall political scenario prevails in the country in that particular time period.

The significant features related to the information provided by Keckley is that she mostly letters to different people at different events. The documentation of information in the form of letters helps to understand the actual prevailing situation at that time-period. The author successfully indicates the life patterns in case of Mrs. Lincoln before and after the death of Mr. President. The number of letters provided by the Keckley is helpful to critically understand and make inferences about the confusing time-period of Civil War in the country. The segregation of particular time-period in the years of slavery and Keckley’s stay in White House helps to differentiate the circumstances of the country from before and after the feature of Civil War. It helps to formulate opinions that what was exactly going on that specific time zone. The information provided by Keckley in her autobiography is also immensely crucial because it clearly indicates the life struggle of Mrs. Lincoln after the death of her husband. She going through with different sort of problems which can be identified as political and social issues.

The changing paradigm of the country’s history after the death of the president is effectively observed and interpret by keckley as she was the primary dressmaker and “modiste” of the Mary Lincoln. Keckley also closely witnessed the different political discussions between Mr. President and Mrs. Lincoln about the changing political facet of the country. It also makes it convenient for the former slave to understand that what is going on in the country politically and the specific challenges which are associated with that particular time of Civil War. Keckley had enough knowledge about the political scenario of the country as she knows different opinions of President Lincoln about his cabinet members and the level of their performances. It can be rightly said that keckley had the immense form of knowledge about the political affairs of the country. That was the crucial political phase for President Lincoln as it leads the country to the paradigm of Civil War. The role of keckley was also immense as she was invited by the Lincoln family to actively join the presidential party.

It is crucial to mention that the prospect of Civil War in the country is mostly discussed by the consideration of the different opinions deliver by Northern and Southern states of the country. The viewpoint of various historians helps to understand the true perspective related to the civil war. A different form of insights ultimately helps to understand the feature of the human experience of African Americans which are closely related to the feature of Civil War. The particular opinion about Civil War indicated by Elizabeth Keckley is immensely crucial as it provides the unique point of view about the changing feature of country’s political scenario. The contribution of the keckley in the documentation of the history of the country is also crucial because it provides the point of view of the individual who suffers from the problem of slavery in her life. She witnesses the critical form of agony and grief in case of slavery. She successfully provides her particular slave narrative in the American history with the consideration of the prospect of Civil War. She effectively provides the strong approach or comparison on the crucial happening of Civil War in that particular time period and how it changes the life of the African Americans.

The significant role of keckley as the active observant of that political time phase was started due to strong bonding between her and Mary Todd Lincoln. Mrs. Lincoln used to share all their problems with Keckley which made her effectively aware of the actual circumstances of the country. This particular association gives the approach to the author of this particular book to develop the unique perspective about the domestic life of the Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln in the White House and the overall life in the capital city of the United States of America. Elizabeth closely observes the country’s problem which appeared in case of recently freed slaves during the Civil War. She had the complete understanding of the whole scenario and she also made some steps to provide necessary assistance to the people who were in the need of food, shelter or other basic needs. It is notable to mention that she had the complete support of the Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln in the provision of different facilities to the needy individuals.

Undoubtedly, the description of the specific time frame of the country presented by the keckley can be identified as the effective feature of the historic literary insight which provides an indication about the specific aspects in pop culture’s recent occurrence in case of Lincoln fever. Keckley’s role was significant which provides the effective approach regarding the different complex form of intersections of race and authority in America during the time-period of the 1860s. The direct interaction of Keckley with the president of the country also makes it possible for her to describe the particular viewpoint of Black Americans about the freedom and how it impacts the feature of slavery. The role of the author in the White house paradigm was compelling as it can indicate about the influential representation of the Black Americans in the overall national scenario with the consideration of the Civil War. The two different phases of keckley’s life as the slave and the personal modiste of the first lady clearly indicate the difference between two different paradigms which both are the realities of the nation. Living in White House immensely change her perception about the political facet of the country and the particular aspects related to the impact of Civil War in the country.

The role of keckley is also crucial in the American history because she closely witnesses the circumstances after the assassination of the Mr. Lincoln. She effectively explains the experiences of Mrs. Lincoln which she bears after the death of the President of the country. The situation was drastically changed for Mrs. Lincoln as she had to deal with many difficult circumstances to maintain the sustainability of herself and her family. She was pushed out from the White house and Keckley was the witness of the whole scenario in case of life difficulties for Mrs. Lincoln. The significant role of keckley is influential in the American history because she effectively documents the occurrence of the real change in the country which can be observed politically and social functioning of the nation. Different life events experience by Keckley was closely related to the changing paradigm of the political scenario of the country after the death of Mr. Lincoln. Her personal objectives about the freedom of slaves related to the feature of American identity can be observed in the specific form of Fourteen Amendment in the country. The particular opinion raised by the Keckley through her book also characterize as the viewpoint of the colored historian which come up with the consideration of her own historical discourse referring to the paradigm of slavery. It is notable to mention that her particular opinions about the whole social scenario of the country were raised with the consideration of her specific position as the middle-class black woman before the Civil war going through with the different difficulties. Her insights are also the indication of her effective involvement in the influential prospect of black politics in the country. The particular form of political optimism ultimately leads the nation to the facet of the approach of Reconstruction in the country. Another crucial phase of the social status of the Black Americans with the establishment of the necessary power in political and social setting was also closely monitored and described by the keckley.


To conclude this, it is essential to mention that the role of Keckley in the understanding of the Civil War era is immensely crucial. Her particular approach provides the necessary indications about the life of the slave who goes through with different forms of problems and made her social position with the changing paradigm of the social facet in case of Black Americans. She closely assesses the different political development happened in the country as she had the close interaction with the first lady of the country. She keenly observes different features which appear in the form of developments after the significant approach of Civil War. The political and social opinion raised by Elizabeth Keckley is also influential because it effectively points out the scenario for Black Americans during slavery and after the Civil War which enormously changes the overall paradigm of the country. The facet of change in the country can be monitored in the form of different political and social settings. The prospect of information embedded by keckley through her writing provides the clear picture about the particular events related to the feature of Civil War in the country.

Work Cited

Keckley, E. Behind the Scenes; or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House. G.W. Carleton & Company, Publishers, 1868,



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