Lizzie Mae  is a fictional character. As far as we know, no one with that name lived at Mount Vernon. However, she is based on several real women who the actress portrayed as a character interpreter providing museum education at Mount Vernon.


Lizzie Mae would have been one of 316 slaves that worked and lived on George Washington's five farms. About 98 of those enslaved people lived on the Mansion House Farm, the grounds of the mansion. Lizzie would have been one of about 12 who worked in the mansion. The rest of the people on her farm were working artisans: carpenters, spinners, weavers, laundresses, knitters, horselers, gardeners, and blacksmiths. A great number were also children, who would have worked in their own homes, caring for younger siblings and doing chores. Some may have also done menial tasks around the farm, such as fetching water from the wells, carding (cleaning) wool, or moving waste from the privies (outhouses).


Lizzie Mae would have worked very long hours, starting at about 4 in the morning and leaving the mansion at about 9 at night. As a house servant, she had very little time to herself and family, and almost no privacy. Most of her day would have been spent cleaning bedrooms, building fires, sewing clothes for  Mount Vernon workers, and tending the many guests that the Washingtons entertained. In one year, they had as many as 677 overnight guests. 

Most people assume that working in the house was a position of privilege. While it may have seemed that way to the slave-owners, it is clear that the people themselves didn't share that point of view. The majority of Mount Vernon runaways were house servants. 

Lizzie Mae would have seen many changes for the slaves at Mount Vernon. When she was a girl, the plantation would have been run in much the same manner as all large Virginia plantations. People were bought and sold, overseers enacted punishments as they saw fit, and George Washington, who had received his first slaves at the age of 11, thought very little of the intellect and personhood of "his negroes".


However, after serving in the Revolutionary War, and commanding regiments of both black and white soldiers, as well as listening to the appeal of many of his abolitionist colleagues, George Washington changed his opinion of slavery and the black race. He came to believe that blacks and whites were equal and that slavery should be abolished in America. Because of this, he stopped buying and selling slaves so that families could remain intact. He also authored several proposals for the emancipation of his slaves as well as those who were a part of Mrs. Washington's dower. Unfortunately, he died very suddenly, before these plans were completed. Only his slaves, less than half of those held in bondage at Mount Vernon, would see freedom.


Though this is a comedy, it is my hope to honor the memory of those people who struggled and survived through their uncanny intelligence, their strength, their love, and...laughter.


Ask A Slave

 The Web Series