Ask A Slave

On the East Coast are a collection of historical venues that try to recapture the look, feel and life of Colonial America. Williamsburg in Virginia and Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts immediately come to mind. Both of these sprawling locales employ whole armies of historical re-enactors. Dressed in period garb these human actors attempt to bring to life the everyday people who once lived in those times. A smaller, but no less important place is Mount Vernon, President George Washington’s home.

Now a National Monument, Mount Vernon employs these historical re-enactors. One such actor was Azie Mira Dungey, a black woman. The only historically accurate role open to her was that of a slave. She played Lizzie Mae, a house maid. Drawing on her experiences working there, Dungey has created two four-minute web videos. Both are part of a web series called Ask A Slave.

Ask A Slave is bitingly satirical. The ridiculous questions Lizzie Mae is asked by white visitors will both amuse and appall you at the same time. “How did you get to be house maid for such a distinguished founding father?” one clueless Midwesterner asks in the first episode. “Did you see the advertisement in the newspaper?” These inane questions and Lizzie Mae’s droll, undercutting responses allow a reasonably self-aware and informed viewer to shake his or her head at the naiveté exhibited by the visiting populace.

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