“Ask A Slave”: Taking Ownership of The Slave Narrative

Stupid Questions.

They happen to all of us at one point or another. It’s inevitable. And despite our best efforts to surround ourselves with what appear to be sensible human beings, there  comes a time where we are forced to contemplate questions that simply defy all measures of logic and common sense.

Now while many of these mind-boggling questions focus on the most  mundane subjects, there are times where questions reflect more than a simple  lack of subject matter knowledge.  Often times the most damning questions are the result of  a dominate and often times inaccurate narrative long associated with specific subjects. These are the type of questions that actress and comedian Azie Dungey confronts in her new web series “Ask A slave”.

A former historical actor at the Mount Vernon plantation that was owned by President George Washington, Dungey plays the role of the Washington’s personal “House Maid” (also known as Slave in these parts) Lizzie Mae.  In this series the character of Lizzie Mae answers real questions that Dungey received during her time as an actor on the Mount Vernon plantation. Employing a sharp comedic wit that was prohibited during her time as an employee  at Mount Vernon, Dungey responds to such priceless inquires as,

“What’s your favorite part of the plantation”?

“How did you get to be housemaid to such a distinguished founding father? Did you see the advertisement in the newspaper?”

And the always classic,

“Where do your children go to school?”

Now while these questions may seem harmless enough to some, they speak to the challenges minority communities face when select narratives become dominate historical interpretations.   In creating “Ask A Slave” Dungie brings light not only to the challenges of communicating minority narratives in the past but also the challenges that persist even today.  Through comedy and this web-series, Dungie is able to expose a massive audience to a narrative that though often overlooked, holds much more historical validity than popular founding fathers portrayal.  And while “Ask A Slave” is far from the first media object to confront the subject of slavery and its often overlooked aspects, (Roots, Amistad,  12 Years As A Slave  etc.)  the very fact that so many still ask the questions featured in this series shows how much work is left to be done.

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