Sample Composition Paper on Elizabeth Keckley
Elizabeth Keckley, born in slavery to George Pleasant and Agnes Hobbs, authored her book Behind the Scenes as a biography and a detailed account of her transition from slavery to working for Mrs. Lincoln in the white house (Spivack). She depicts her life in the white house as one of witnessing intimate moments of the first family. She portrays herself present in most of their conversations which she exposes Mrs. Lincoln advising her husband about different cabinet members. She lightly notes the death of her son who died early in the civil wars; however, they bond with the president’s wife for the loss of their sons as she also lost her son later on. The president’s assassination in the book is portrayed as an event of national shock and terror as people were amidst festivity. She explicitly discusses Mrs. Lincoln’s grief and financial woes, as she accompanies her return west; she also blames the congress for failing to support her financially.
Elizabeth uses her experiences and birth in slavery to bring a picture of the cruelty of slavery and the impacts it has on the victim’s life; however, she notes her struggle and how she overcame her environmental conditions to achieve the dream of working for the president’s wife. She promotes motivation against all odds throughout the book, and she notes all the negativity she experienced in slavery including rape so explicitly to prove to her readers that the conditions she went through could not limit her ambitions. This book, in my view, is one of the best sources the anti-slavery movements can refer to in order to enlighten the members and spread hope to the victims.
Keckley’s Behind the Scenes is distinct from other narratives like Jacobs’s and Truth’s, especially on matters of sexual abuse. Keckley depicts her personal experiences and struggles during childhood, which includes physical abuse, psychological gaps, and withdrawal from the parents. She, more so, develops in her narrative the theme of self-promotion and reliance and shows the female gender not as a weaker sex but rather as important as their male counterparts. This is specially engraved in the experiences and roles played by Mrs. Lincoln.
Keckley in this autobiography explicitly discusses her experiences and puts them open for the reader. She does not conceal even the conversations she overheard between Lincoln and his wife, some of which created controversies after the publishing of the book; for instance, when Mrs. Lincoln was advising her husband against Mr. Salmon P. Chase who was a secretary of the treasury (Keckley 128-135).
Keckley, Elizabeth. Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House. Hillsborough, NC: Eno Publishers, 2016. Print.
Spivack, Emily. The Story of Elizabeth Keckley, Former-Slave-Turned-Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker. Smithsonian.com, 24 Apr. 2013, www.smithsonianmag.com/arts- culture/the-story-of-elizabeth-keckley-former-slave-turned-mrs-lincolns-dressmaker- 41112782/. Accessed 23 Mar. 2017.