An Interview with Azie Dungey, creator of “Ask a Slave.”
Amber Williams | Correspondent
Azie Dungey claims to have played “every Black woman of note that ever lived,” from Harriet Tubman, to Claudette Colvin.
A native of the DMV area, Dungey spent years as a historical interpreter. While portraying Caroline Branham, Martha Washington’s enslaved maid at Mount Vernon. Dungey began keeping record of the questions tourists asked her. It was this experience that inspired her web series, “Ask a Slave,” in which she plays fictional character Lizzie Mae.
The Nubian Message was able to get an exclusive look into her experience, as well as her web series.
Nubian Message: What prompted you to apply for your job as Caroline?
Azie: After working in educational theatre and teaching students for two years about history I was offered a seasonal job for Christmas break and gladly accepted and was then offered a job as George Washington wife’s slave.
NM: How has portraying Caroline at Mount Vernon changed your outlook on history?
A: I was always interested in my history. The job description was a historical interpreter and in order to understand history, you must first research and learn the history. If anything I have become more knowledgeable about slavery life and I have learned to appreciate more.
NM: Are there ever times that you resent your job or the people who ask you questions?
A: Half way through my job I thought I could not take it. It was not the people that made me dislike the job, but learning what slaves encounter. Learning the history was painful and sad. People should know what happened, but instead America ignores it. The lack of knowledge that people fail to know about our history frustrates me.
NM: What are some of the reactions that you’ve gotten from the African American community in regard to the “Ask a Slave” series?
A: I have received mostly positive feedback from my audience concerning the series. A lot of people reached out to me to thank me for giving African American history life. Some people have made comments saying that I should not mix comedy and slavery. For me comedy and satire is important. Humor is a way to deal with pain. [Actor] Mel Brooks once said, ‘laughter opens people up, breaks sensors to receive the message behind comedy.’ Slavery is not the joke, the joke is modern America and it’s misconception of the past.
NM: Do you feel like your occupation is a true representation of what enslaved people actually went through?
A: Research is 100 percent, but I believe I can only portray what I have learned. I will never know how it felt to be in her shoes and experience slavery.
NM: What have you learned from this experience?
A: I learned to appreciate the past and know what [Black history] was and not to separate it [from general history], or shorten it to one month as if it was less important. [Black history] should not be something you just learn about in February.
Watch Episode 1 of “Ask a Slave” below!
For more information on Dungey and “Ask a Slave,” visit her website.