Hermits Rock

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Witness to History

The Washington Post has a great story about Gene Allen, who servedin the White House as part of the house staff, as a “pantry boy,” a butler, and finally as a maitre d’ for more than thirty years. Now 89, the last White House he served was the Reagan Administration, but he was a behind-the-scenes witness to history:

He couldn’t help notice that blacks were moving closer to the center of power, closer than he could ever have dreamed. He’d tell [his wife] Helene how proud it made him feel.

Few people witness what it means to be so close to power like those who serve the powerful. And the story reminded me of another that asserted as much: In 1868, Elizabeth Keckley, a former slave and servant to Mary Todd Lincoln, published her memoir Behind the Scenes. It’s partly a book of Washington gossip, partly of Lincoln worship, and fascinating for both reasons.