Behind the Scenes by Elizabeth Keckley

Behind the Scenes, by Elizabeth Keckley is a blog posted by the Esoteric Ed U. Cajun (Édouard Ulgère) in order to present the writings of African Americans he believes should be much more well known.



30 Years a Slave, 4 Years in the White House, Chapter 14
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In order to introduce a pleasant chapter of my life, I must take a slight retrospective glance. Mrs. Ann[e] Garland, the mistress from whom I purchased my freedom in St. Louis, had five daughters, all lovely, attractive girls. I used to take pride in dressing the two eldest, Miss Mary and Miss Carrie, for parties.

Though the family labored under pecuniary embarrassment, I worked for these two young girls, and they were always able to present a good appearance in society. They were much admired, and both made the best matches of the season.

Miss Mary married Dr. Pappan, and Miss Carrie, Dr. John Farrow. I loved them both tenderly, and they were warmly attached to me. Both are now dead, and when the death-film was gathering in the eyes, each called for me and asked to die in my arms.

Miss Carrie did not long survive her sister, and I wept many tears over the death-beds of the two lovely flowers that had blossomed so sweetly beneath my eyes. Each breathed her last in the arms that had sheltered them so often in the bright rosy period of life.

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4 Years in the White House Chapter 13
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Mrs. Lincoln from her girlhood up had an ambition to become the wife of a President. When a little girl, as I was told by one of her sisters, she was disposed to be a little noisy at times, and was self- willed.

One day she was romping about the room, making more noise than the nerves of her grandmother could stand. The old lady looked over her spectacles, and said, in a commanding tone:

"Sit down, Mary. Do be quiet. What on earth do you suppose will become of you if you go on this way?"

"Oh, I will be the wife of a President some day," carelessly answered the petted child.

Mrs. Lincoln, as Miss Mary Todd, was quite a belle in Springfield, Illinois, and from all accounts she was fond of flirting. She generally managed to keep a half-dozen gentlemen biting at the hook that she baited so temptingly for them.

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Thirty Years a Slave Chapter 12
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For five weeks Mrs. Lincoln was confined to her room. Packing afforded quite a relief, as it so closely occupied us that we had not much time for lamentation.

Letters of condolence were received from all parts of the country, and even from foreign potentates, but Mr. Andrew Johnson, the successor of Mr. Lincoln, never called on the widow, or even so much as wrote a line expressing sympathy for her grief and the loss of her husband.

Robert called on him one day to tell him that his mother would turn the White House over to him in a few days, and he never even so much as inquired after their welfare. Mrs. Lincoln firmly believes that Mr. Johnson was concerned in the assassination plot.

In packing, Mrs. Lincoln gave away everything intimately connected with the President, as she said that she could not bear to be reminded of the past. The articles were given to those who were regarded as the warmest of Mr. Lincoln's admirers. All of the presents passed through my hands. The dress that Mrs. Lincoln wore on the night of the assassination was given to Mrs. Slade, the wife of an old and faithful messenger.

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30 Years a Slave, 4 Years in the White House, Chapter 11
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I had never heard Mr. Lincoln make a public speech, and, knowing the man so well, was very anxious to hear him. On the morning of the Tuesday after our return from City Point, Mrs. Lincoln came to my apartments, and before she drove away I asked permission to come to the White House that night and hear Mr. Lincoln speak.

"Certainly, Lizabeth; if you take any interest in political speeches, come and listen in welcome."

"Thank you, Mrs. Lincoln. May I trespass further on your kindness by asking permission to bring a friend with me?"

"Yes, bring your friend also. By the way, come in time to dress me before the speaking commences."

"I will be in time. You may rely upon that. Good morning," I added, as she swept from my room, and, passing out into the street, entered her carriage and drove away.

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30 Years a Slave Chapter 10
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Mrs. Lincoln came to my apartments one day towards the close of the summer of 1864, to consult me in relation to a dress. And here let me remark, I never approved of ladies, attached to the Presidential household, coming to my rooms. I always thought that it would be more consistent with their dignity to send for me, and let me come to them, instead of their coming to me.

I may have peculiar notions about some things, and this may be regarded as one of them. No matter, I have recorded my opinion. I cannot forget the associations of my early life.

Well, Mrs. Lincoln came to my rooms, and, as usual, she had much to say about the Presidential election.

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4 Years in the White House Chapter 9
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Some of the freedmen and freedwomen had exaggerated ideas of liberty.

To them it was a beautiful vision, a land of sunshine, rest and glorious promise. They flocked to Washington, and since their extravagant hopes were not realized, it was but natural that many of them should bitterly feel their disappointment.

The colored people are wedded to associations, and when you destroy these you destroy half of the happiness of their lives. They make a home, and are so fond of it that they prefer it, squalid though it be, to the comparative ease and luxury of a shifting, roaming life.

Well, the emancipated slaves, in coming North, left old associations behind them, and the love for the past was so strong that they could not find much beauty in the new life so suddenly opened to them. Thousands of the disappointed, huddled together in camps, fretted and pined like children for the "good old times." In visiting them in the interests of the Relief Society of which I was president, they would crowd around me with pitiful stories of distress.

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30 Years a Slave Chapter, 4 Years in the White House Chapter 8
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Often Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln discussed the relations of Cabinet officers, and gentlemen prominent in politics, in my presence.

I soon learned that the wife of the President had no love for Mr. Salmon P. Chase, at that time Secretary of the Treasury. She was well versed in human character, was somewhat suspicious of those by whom she was surrounded, and often her judgment was correct. Her intuition about the sincerity of individuals was more accurate than that of her husband. She looked beyond, and read the reflection of action in the future.

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30 Years a Slave 4 Years in the White House Chapter VII
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In the summer of 1862, freedmen began to flock into Washington from Maryland and Virginia. They came with a great hope in their hearts, and with all their worldly goods on their backs. Fresh from the bonds of slavery, fresh from the benighted regions of the plantation, they came to the Capital looking for liberty, and many of them not knowing it when they found it.

Many good friends reached forth kind hands, but the North is not warm and impulsive.

For one kind word spoken, two harsh ones were uttered; there was something repelling in the atmosphere, and the bright joyous dreams of freedom to the slave faded--were sadly altered, in the presence of that stern, practical mother, reality.

Instead of flowery paths, days of perpetual sunshine, and bowers hanging with golden fruit, the road was rugged and full of thorns, the sunshine was eclipsed by shadows, and the mute appeals for help too often were answered by cold neglect.

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4 Years in the White House Chapter VI
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Mrs. Lincoln returned to Washington in November, and again duty called me to the White House. The war was now in progress, and every day brought stirring news from the front--the front, where the Gray opposed the Blue, where flashed the bright sabre in the sunshine, where were heard the angry notes of battle, the deep roar of cannon, and the fearful rattle of musketry; where new graves were being made every day, where brother forgot a mother's early blessing and sought the lifeblood of brother, and friend raised the deadly knife against friend.

Oh, the front, with its stirring battle-scenes!

Oh, the front, with its ghastly heaps of dead!

The life of the nation was at stake; and when the land was full of sorrow, there could not be much gayety at the capital. The days passed quietly with me. I soon learned that some people had an intense desire to penetrate the inner circle of the White House.

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4 Years in the White House Chapter V
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Ever since arriving in Washington I had a great desire to work for the ladies of the White House, and to accomplish this end I was ready to make almost any sacrifice consistent with propriety.

Work came in slowly, and I was beginning to feel very much embarrassed, for I did not know how I was to meet the bills staring me in the face. It is true, the bills were small, but then they were formidable to me, who had little or nothing to pay them with.

While in this situation I called at the Ringolds, where I met Mrs. Captain Lee. Mrs. L. was in a state bordering on excitement, as the great event of the season, the dinner-party given in honor of the Prince of Wales, was soon to come off, and she must have a dress suitable for the occasion. The silk had been purchased, but a dress-maker had not yet been found.

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30 Years a Slave Chapter 4
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The twelve hundred dollars with which I purchased the freedom of myself and son I consented to accept only as a loan. I went to work in earnest, and in a short time paid every cent that was so kindly advanced by my lady patrons of St. Louis.

All this time my husband was a source of trouble to me, and a burden. Too close occupation with my needle had its effects upon my health, and feeling exhausted with work, I determined to make a change. I had a conversation with Mr. Keckley; informed him that since he persisted in dissipation we must separate; that I was going North, and that I should never live with him again, at least until I had good evidence of his reform.

He was rapidly debasing himself, and although I was willing to work for him, I was not willing to share his degradation.

Poor man; he had his faults, but over these faults death has drawn a veil. My husband is now sleeping in his grave, and in the silent grave I would bury all unpleasant memories of him.

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