Originally published in 1868—when it was attacked as an “indecent book” authored by a “traitorous eavesdropper”—Behind the Scenes is the story of Elizabeth Keckley, who began her life as a slave and became a privileged witness to the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. Keckley bought her freedom at the age of thirty-seven and set up a successful dressmaking business in Washington, D.C. She became modiste to Mary Todd Lincoln and in time her friend and confidante, a relationship that continued after Lincoln’s assassination. In documenting that friendship—often using the First Lady’s own letters—Behind the Scenes fuses the slave narrative with the political memoir. It remains extraordinary for its poignancy, candor, and historical perspective.
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.