Follow TV Tropes


Web Video / Ask a Slave

Go To

Ask a Slave: The Web Series is a YouTube series centered on Lizzie Mae (played by actress Azie Dungey, culling questions from her real-life employment as a historical re-enactor in Virginia), a house slave at Mount Vernon. She answers questions from modern-day tourists (whose names have been changed to protect the guilty). The questions she's asked are easily enough to justify a "Somewhere, a Historian is Crying" tropes page.


This web series provides examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Fellow slave Sam keeps getting called "Sambo". He doesn't like that. At all.
  • Angry Black Man: One of the tourists was one of these, trying to be in-character by yelling at her for being taken into slavery. Lizzie Mae just scoffs at him just like with the white ones.
  • Artistic License – History: Averting this trope is the point of the series, and Azie Dungey's work.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: Pretty much the whole point of the series.
  • Berserk Button: Do not suggest to Lizzie Mae that slavery wasn't all that bad.
  • Blatant Lies: "Look at [my son], pretending how to read!"
  • Comically Missing the Point: The basis of much of the series' humor is the tourists' inability to understand the magnitude of slavery.
  • Children Are Innocent: Played straight in the episode "Kids!", when several children ask her questions. At worse their questions are Innocently Insensitive.
    • Downplayed with her own son, Jimmy. He admits to picking on an indentured servant's son named Buck, but only because Buck taunted him for being a slave.
  • Advertisement:
  • Cluster F-Bomb: What Lizzie Mae does when one of the guests says slavery wasn't that bad.
  • Critical Research Failure: In-universe. Many of the askers have not even a basic grasp of history.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Lizzie regularly gives answers dripping with this. Justified, given the quality of questions she is given.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: One caller tears up on hearing that Lizzie has to sew her own and the Washingtons' shirts, and is glad she doesn't force servants to make hers. When asked if how she gets her shirts then, the caller answers that she buys them from a store. Lizzie responds: "Then how do you know [whoever makes them] isn't enslaved like me?"
  • Don't Ask:
    Question: What was the worst day of your life?
    Answer: The day Thomas Jefferson came over. Next question.
  • First World Problems: Many of the questioners seem to complain of these.
  • Advertisement:
  • Flipping the Bird: "Hey Lizzie, show me where you're branded!"
    Lizzie: (holds up middle finger) That's where I'm branded.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Not for Lizzie, but her friend Emma the Runaway. When fist shown, Emma is hiding in the woods and being chased by bloodhounds. In the last episode, Emma's is living in Portsmouth and is married to a rich freeman.
  • Have a Gay Old Time:
    • Two gay men ask Lizzie if she's married, to which she responds she does have a husband but slave marriages aren't legally recognized. The two men respond that this doesn't sound too different from gay marriage. Lizzie thanks them for calling her marriage "gay" and wishes them a "gay" marriage too.
    • Averted when two later men tell her she "gives me a boner." She manages to figure out the new meaning of that word, much to her disgust.
  • Headbutting Heroes: In the episode "House & Field", Lizzie and Sam get into an argument over which of them has the worse situation.
  • Historical Domain Character: Tobias Lear in episode 2 of Season 1 and Red Jacket/Sagoyewatha from episode 3 of Season 2 are actual historical figures.
  • Historical In-Joke: Lizzie Mae comments that the worst day of her life was "The day Thomas Jefferson came to visit", which is what Martha Washington said was the second worst day of her life. (The worst being the day her husband died.)
  • Hollywood History: Possibly the root cause of so many of the questions is an education based on little more than this.
  • G.I.F.T.: The comments section of each and every video seems to attract this, to one degree or another. Parodied in one of the second-season videos, where people commenting from home attack Lizzie Mae from every conceivable angle, but then just start quarrelling with each other.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: At one point Lizzie and Sam are asked if they ever thought of violently rebelling against their masters, and after a pause they both insist that they never have and Sam this:
    "I've never even heard of Toussaint Louverture from Haiti."
  • Internet Counterattackinvoked: In one episode, Lizzie opens the time up to people at home on the internet. She quickly regrets it.
  • Kids Are Cruel: In the episode "I love that boy", Lizzie's son describes being in a feud with an indentured servant's son named Buck. Buck taunted him with that fact that is father will eventually be free and Jimmy's will not, so in turn Jimmy called Buck's mother a "toad-eating trogget" and tricked him into doing his chores by promising to pay him with money he didn't have.
  • Noble Bigot: An abolitionist is a guest on the show in the second episode. Unfortunately, he still thinks of black people as "inferior", and seems to oppose slavery more on the grounds of industrial philosophy. He also doesn't want to make African Americans be equal citizens, but instead have them all shipped back to Africa, which many of them have no memories or experience of. That's an accurate portrayal of your typical abolitionist of the time.
  • Not So Above It All: In the episode "What About the Indians?", Lizzie tells Red Jacket to make everyone call him by his true name because they made her people give up their names too. He mentions that his true name is Sagoyewatha, and after three attempts to pronounce it Lizzie goes back to calling him Red Jacket.
  • Recursive Canon: One of the questioners in Episode 6 of Season 2 is Azie Dungey herself, asking Lizzie Mae for tips on how to portray a slave for her job as a reennactor.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Lizzie Mae, though sass is deserved with the type of questions people ask her.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: When commenters on the internet start arguing with each other and not letting her get in a word edge-wise, Lizzie just gets up and leaves.
  • Sex Slave:
    • Discussed. In the first episode Lizzie states some female slaves end up baring the illegitimate children of their masters, and in the episode "Abolitioning" she states that Thomas Jefferson being an example of this as a rebuttal after Tobias Leer lists Jefferson as an example of a good master. In the episode "Kids!", after a child asks if she's George Washington's wife, Lizzie tells the child not to let Martha Washington hear that - implying that even being perceived as this trope was dangerous for enslaved women because it invited retaliation from the master's wife.
    • Averted with Lizzie Mae herself. In the episode "Caught in the Web" she angrily tells a rude black man that her master "has not been up in this mix".
  • Split Screen: During the web episode, more and more commenters start taking up the screen until she gets fed up.
  • Stepford Smiler: Played With. Lizzie Mae is in a situation (both in fic and meta) where she's forced to be incredibly pleasant to some incredibly ignorant people. Lampshaded when Azie asks her for advice on how to act like a slave: Lizzie Mae tells her "Never, ever let these people know what you're thinking."
  • Warts and All: The series makes it clear that many American founders like George Washington or Jefferson were very racist despite their heroic acts. George Washington is at best neutral toward his slaves, and he is unfavorably remembered by a Native American guest, who says that his people call Washington "Village Burner". When asked what her worst day was, Mae simply says "The day Thomas Jefferson came to visit," and doesn't elaborate any further.
  • Wham Line: Lizzie delivers one to a viewer who tries arguing that slavery was a good deal due to the masters giving them room and board. She reveals that, in her case at least, they did not.
    Lizzie: "I built my own damn house, sir."
  • Underground Railroad: One viewer (from Vermont) asks Mae why she doesn't just take the Underground Railroad to escape. As this takes place 30 years before the "Underground Railroad" formed and before the invention of steam trains, Lizzie Mae assumes that people in Vermont build their roads underground for some unfathomable reason.
  • You Are a Credit to Your Race: Tobias Lear admits at the end of episode 2 that Lizzie has a point, despite being black and a woman.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: George Washington, who most Americans see as a heroic founding father and revolutionary, is seen as arrogant and demanding by his slaves Lizzie Mae and Sam Johnson. Meanwhile the Seneca leader Red Jacket states his people call George Washington "town-destroyer" for attacking his people's settlements and burned their crops during the Revolutionary War then forced them to give up their land after it ended.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: