Penny Lee was theoretically legally born free of slavery around 1806, and presumed to have been the daughter of Agnes, wife of William Lee and given manumission after death of Martha Washington in 1803.
The great tragedy is that she was not born free from slavery in 1804 following the death of Martha but rather not until 20 years later in accordance with reasoning by descendents of Martha Washington and the notorious court system that existed twenty-five years after death of George Washington.
The peculiar institution of chattel slavery groomed and expanded after the American Revolutionary War for freedom and liberty included expectation and hope for aristocratic inheritances wherein women like Martha Washington's grand-daughters on left expected and demanded that young women like Penny Lee were born to be their lifetime servants.
Like their grand-mother before them, her grand-daughters were amazed and enraged that enslaved young women who had been their child-hood playmates should rather be legally free than their slaves. It is no wonder that he did not want lawyers to probate his will! Washington knew and understood the minds of his class of Virginians, especially women with aristocratic yearnings and generally far more understanding and sympathetic to the plight of runaway field hands than that of house-hold body servants they expected to love them.
Those household slaves who did not love being such, especially young girls such as depicted by Butterfly McQueen in Margaret Mitchell's screen-play of her book "Gone With The Wind" ... were deemed to be lazy, stupid or even crazy! Martha Washington had relentlessly pursued her favorite body slave Ona Judd who ran away to freedom and love in a free state; and never could accept the fact that she preferred liberty, ... over being her servant. The Mount Vernon Ladies Association and other historical and cultural bodies even today more often than not are confused about this heritage.
We are anxiously seeking to learn more information about Penny, and welcome comments.
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