It's Elizabeth Keckley's year in Civil War history





When Elizabeth Keckley, a former slave turned professional dressmaker and confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln, published her memoir, “Behind the Scenes,” in 1868, the response was vitriolic. One Washington reviewer called Mrs. Keckley “treacherous” and asked: “What family of eminence that employs a Negro is safe from such desecration? Where will it end?”

What a difference 145 years make.

The memoir is now ensconced as a historic literary treasure, and in pop culture’s most recent outbreak of Lincoln fever, Mrs. Keckley is logging significant time onstage, on screen and on the page, where her remarkable life has allowed other writers to explore the complicated intersections of race and power in 1860s America.

“She had always prided herself on her integrity and dignity, and to suddenly be dismissed as a lowly servant telling tales was quite a shock,” said Jennifer Chiaverini, whose novel “Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker” is being published by Dutton on Tuesday....



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