Tag Archive for 'DocSouth Books'

Elizabeth Keckley in Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln”

Today Steven Spielberg’s much-anticipated new film, Lincoln, opens in theaters across the United States. Covering Lincoln’s final months in office, the film portrays the actions he took to end the war and abolish slavery.

Spielberg based more than 40 of his characters on historical figures; included in this group is Elizabeth Keckley, an enslaved woman whose 1868 book (Behind the Scenes, Or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House) UNC Press and the UNC Library republished last year through the DocSouth Books program.

Keckley, born a slave in Virginia in 1818, suffered through decades of slavery’s horrors, including beatings and a sexual assault. Eventually, she raised enough money to purchase freedom for herself and her son, moving to Washington, D.C. to work as a seamstress. A close confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln, for whom she sewed, Keckley eventually published Behind the Scenes both as a slave narrative and a memoir of her relationship with the First Lady. The book also attempted to defend the sale of Mrs. Lincoln’s dresses to help solve Lincoln’s financial problems.

Unfortunately, negative public reaction to the book’s revelations of Mrs. Lincoln’s private feelings and financial troubles caused Keckley’s dressmaking business to fail and the Lincoln family to cut off ties with her. But Behind the Scenes remains an important view into the Lincolns’ life and the White House of the 1860s, quoted to this day by biographers.

To learn more about Keckley, check out this summary from the Documenting the American South web site. To see a sketch of a gown Keckley created for Lincoln, check out this page from the Smithsonian Institution.

To purchase Behind the Scenes in print-on-demand paperback or electronic format, click hereDocSouth Books, a collaboration between UNC Press and UNC Library, brings classic works from the digital library of Documenting the American South back into print and makes them available as downloadable e-books or print-on-demand publications.

Slate recently published an article comparing historical photos of the real people to pictures of the actors who portray them. Click here to view this article.

Kate Masur, author of An Example for All the Land: Emancipation and the Struggle over Equality in Washington, D.C., recently wrote about the movie in a New York Times op-ed. (Click here to read the story.) Harold Holzer, co-author of The Confederate Image and The Union Image, also commented on the movie in this article from The Telegraph.

Remembering Uncle Tom

On March 20th, 160 years ago, Harriet Beecher Stowe published Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a novel that immediately captured the nation’s attention and precipitated increased anti-slavery agitation in the decade leading up to the Civil War.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin follows the personal lives of the slave known as Uncle Tom and his family as they suffer through the sales, violence, separation, and death that characterized American slavery. Fiercely religious and protective of his family, Tom puts himself in harm’s way to keep his family together and provide them with whatever protection he can.

Written partly in response to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was first published in serialized form in the periodical the National Era. Immediately popular, the narrative was published in book form on March 20th, 1852, selling more than 300,000 copies in the United States within its first year of publication.

The narrative personalized the violent and horrifying nature of slavery, striking a nerve in an American culture which had for years looked the other way and allowed slavery to continue. In its 160-year history, Uncle Tom’s Cabin has been translated into more than sixty languages and is still widely read today.

Stowe’s main character, Uncle Tom, was partly inspired by the life and memoirs of the Reverend Josiah Henson, a former slave turned abolitionist and Underground Railroad worker. Henson’s autobiography, Uncle Tom’s Story of His Life, is available through the DocSouth Books publishing initiative, in e-book and print-on-demand paperback format.

For more information about the story and significance of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, check out the extensive information available online through the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center.

To learn more about the publication history of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, click here.

A great collection of primary documents—including copies of original illustrations and book reviews—is available here.

To learn more about Harriet Beecher Stowe, click here.

The News & Observer recently published a great contextual summary: click here.

DocSouth Books Are Now Available!

UNC Press and the University of North Carolina Library are pleased to announce that the first twelve DocSouth Books are now available in both print-on-demand paperback and e-book formats. This collaborative effort brings back into print several classic works from the digital library of Documenting the American South and makes them available to new generations for a variety of uses.

Comprising slave narratives, a collection of slave songs, and a call-to-arms pamphlet by a free black man, the DocSouth Books program makes accessible in book form several compelling and enlightening texts from the nineteenth century. For example, Uncle Tom’s Story of His Life: An Autobiography of the Reverend Josiah Henson is traditionally thought to have inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe’s classic anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Also included is Solomon Northrup’s Twelve Years a Slave, which was recently slated for Hollywood adaptation by Brad Pitt.

The DocSouth Books are newly typeset for readability but otherwise unaltered from the original publications, with the original page numbers preserved. Print-on-demand copies range from $15 to $40. Downloadable e-book versions, priced between $8 and $17, are available for the Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader, and the Barnes & Noble Nook.

Launched in 1996, the Documenting the American South online collection includes more than 1,400 digitized books, as well as maps, images, oral histories, manuscripts, and primary source material. The first twelve DocSouth Books represent the most frequently studied and requested texts in the Documenting the American South collection. The collaboration between Documenting the American South and UNC Press uses the latest technologies in digital publishing to bring affordable and unaltered versions of these rare texts to an audience of students, scholars, and general readers of all ages.

“Users now have two new ways to engage with these books,” said Jenn Riley, head of the Carolina Digital Library and Archives. “This collaboration with UNC Press makes perfect sense as a way to expand the scope of Documenting the American South.”

“UNC Press and the UNC Libraries have a long history of collaboration, and this is another great example of what has been a fruitful partnership,” said Mark Simpson-Vos, Editorial Director of UNC Press. “The publishing processes we have put in place for DocSouth Books promise to yield dividends for years to come.”