Lincoln: emancipating the proclamation

Harry C. Alford | 12/19/2012, 5 p.m.

Most interesting was the role of a Black female who appeared with First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln just about all the time. When I returned home I researched this. This sister was not a slave or employee like a domestic. She was actually a very good friend of the first lady and an entrepreneur and fashion designer.

In fact, Elizabeth Keckley bought her own and her son's freedom in St. Louis and moved to Washington, D.C. Her dresses were in high demand among the ladies of the Washington elite. Being a confidante of the first lady made her well respected. Later, she would own boarding houses in Philadelphia and D.C. She actually owned one across the street from the Willard Hotel and two blocks from the White House. She was also a philanthropist for Wilberforce University.

Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee was Thaddeus Stevens. He was a pure abolitionist and played his part in the victory. It was apparent that he had a relationship with a sister. I researched her and found Lydia Hamilton Smith, a widow and supposedly the housekeeper for the congressman. Actually, it was well known that she was his common law wife for more than 20 years. She ran his business affairs when he was in session. When Stevens died, he left her $5,000, which was a handsome sum back then.

She bought his home and office and invested the rest in other things and became a prosperous entrepreneur in her own right.

Alford is the co-founder, president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®. Website: www.nationalbcc.org. Email: halford@nationalbcc.org.

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