‘Mrs. Keckley Has Met With Great Success’
By JOAN PAULSON GAGE
Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” has cast a spotlight on a remarkable African-American woman who played a key role in influencing the president’s views on emancipation, bought her way out of slavery and fought to improve the lot of her people. And yet, when heroes of the Civil War era and the anti-slavery movement are celebrated, Elizabeth Keckley (portrayed in “Lincoln” by the actress Gloria Reuben) has been generally overlooked.
Until now. A play called “Mary T. & Lizzy K.,” by Tazewell Thompson, which examines the relationship between Mary Todd Lincoln and the dressmaker who became her confidante and closest friend, will open in March at the Mead Center for American Theater in Washington. (Keckley was also an important character in Paula Vogel’s “A Civil War Christmas,” which recently closed at New York Theater Workshop.) And Jennifer Chiaverini’s novel “Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker” was published in January. All that in addition to her significant if less central appearance in the Spielberg film.
( The little-known details of Elizabeth Keckley’s life provide enough drama, tragedy and irony to inspire a mini-series — all of it true and a testament to one woman’s courage.Collapse )
Keckley's autobiography, Behind the Scenes Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House, is in the public domain and can be read or downloaded for free.
The play Mary T. and Lizzie K. will run from March 15-April 28 at the Mead Center for American Theater in Washington, DC.
And finally, there are some articles about her son George Kirkland's military service here and here at The Sable Arm.