Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Michelle Sizemore


As a modiste well-versed in the social expectations of the domestic world, Elizabeth Keckley crafted an autobiography that would appeal to this wide variety of audiences. Throughout the 1850s, women across the nation negotiated the terms of True Womanhood and identified activism as a space where women could engage with national concerns. At the same time, literary production in the US was increasing exponentially, creating room for literature to be used as a means of social change. Contemporary scholars have devoted much attention to the ways Keckley’s Behind the Scenes combines elements of multiple genres to assure its long-term survival. To this conversation I wish to add the colonial captivity narrative, which offers a strong sense of narrative closure along with a unique perspective on the role of narrator. I argue that close readings of Keckley’s text reveal how the generic landmarks of colonial captivity narratives have been used to structure Behind the Scenes. These details reveal the meticulous nature of Keckley’s creative process, allowing her to portray the inner life of the Lincoln family from the outside while still prioritizing the true story at the center of the narrative—her own.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)