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Read and analyze the source by completing the Analysis Routine below. When you have finished, select the BACK TO DINING ROOM button to explore the other sources provided.

Frank Lee

Frank Lee came to Mount Vernon with his brother in 1768 when, as enslaved people, George Washington brought them there. He was given a work assignment in the house. Frank was first an enslaved waiter. Then he became the long-time enslaved butler for the Mount Vernon mansion.

Frank Lee was usually the first person a visitor to Mount Vernon saw. He dressed in a white-and-red livery suit. Liveries were special uniforms worn by house servants that George Washington ordered for him to wear. Frank would greet and announce a visitor’s presence to the family. Visitors remembered meeting him and described him as polite, kind, and light-skinned. These descriptions provided a rare opportunity to better understand the characteristics of an enslaved person at Mount Vernon. He had a lot of duties. He also oversaw the Washington’s tableware. He waited on the family at meals. He monitored the stores of food and wine. He supervised the cleaning of the house. He also looked after some of the estate’s dogs. 

Frank Lee married into one of the largest families on the estate. His wife was Lucy, Mount Vernon’s cook in the 1790s. They had at least four children. Documentary evidence suggests that the Lee family probably lived in the south wing of the Mansion cellar, where the Washingtons kept a second kitchen.

Complete the Analysis Routine

1. What clothes did Frank Lee wear? Why do you think he wore these clothes? Did he choose to wear these clothes?

2. List four of Frank’s tasks. What skills did he have to use in order to do them well?

3. One of Frank’s responsibilities was to transfer food from the Kitchen to the Dining Room. Do think he ate any of the food that was prepared for the Dining Room. Why or why not?

4. What is one thing in Frank’s biography that surprised you?