Elizabeth Keckly/Mary Baxter Johnson

Elizabeth Keckly was born in February 1818 in Dinwiddie County Courthouse, VA. She was born a slave to slave parents. She was brought into this world in God-like thought but fettered in action. Like many before her, she was forced into servitude. But she never surrendered her mind or her desire to be free!

Although a slave Lizzy set goals for herself and her son, George. Lizzy dreamed of being a dressmaker, mantua maker for the ladies of the White House. She knew that she would not always be a slave.

When researching strong women from years past, I was drawn to Elizabeth Keckly for more than one reason. The main reason was she mirrored my great-grandmother, Mary Baxter Johnson. We called her Muddea:-) Like Lizzy, Muddea (1850?-1975) was born a slave to slave parents. Also like Lizzy she would not die a slave. Although Muddea was a farmer, she was a shrewd business woman! She would purchase forty acres of land for a $1 an acre. (It would take her two years to pay it in full) That land is still in our family to this day! She built up the land, she left a rich heritage for her offspring. She built a reputation that many would come to admire. Although Muddea died at the young age of 125 (you read correctly 125 years of age!), when I was 7 years of age, I still feel her love and inspiration to be the best person that I can be despite many obstacles.

After my performances, I am often asked,”Why do you do historical performances?” Simply put — to educate people about the unsung heroines that help to set a firm foundation of self-worth and dignity. To learn from the struggles of others, to set goals then achieve them!

Visit www.historicalfirsts.org for more information on Elizabeth Keckly and other fascinating women!

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