Ben Affleck, the star of the upcoming movie, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, is coming clean regarding the discovery that his ancestry included slave owners. Affleck was featured in an October episode of the PBS show, Finding Your Roots, from which information was leaked about his ancestry; information which it was alleged he attempted to hide. The information was publicized by Wikileaks, which used hacked emails from Sony to reveal that Affleck had a distant relative who owned slaves. It was further stated that Affleck had asked the show’s producers to leave out this information about his ancestry, leading to the segment not being presented on the show. After the release of this information, Affleck admitted it on Facebook this past Tuesday, and said that he felt embarrassed over it.
Finding Your Roots is a show which features people who volunteer information about their families. The person featured on the show, usually a celebrity, allows the show to perform an extensive search on his or her ancestry. While the show’s producers state that they respect a person’s privacy and would never publish anything that would embarrass family members, it also assumes that the person featured is completely honest with respect to their family background.
After the search was done on the 42-year-old actor’s ancestry, it was discovered that one his distant relatives had been a slave owner, but rather than come clean about it, Affleck requested that this not be included on the show. Henry Louis Gates Jr., the host for the show, stated that this was the first time a guest had made this type of request, and he agreed not to feature it. He also made other decisions, which were not agreed on. When asked about this decision, Gates denied that he had done anything wrong, and stated that he wished to focus on other members of the star’s ancestry, which he found to be more interesting.
Gates emailed the Associated Press, in which he stated that omitting information about Affleck’s slave owner ancestor had more to do with interest rather than the intention to censor part of a person’s background. One ancestor who the show’s host focused on, was a great-grandfather from three generations back who served in the Civil War, and was also into the occult arts. “We never had someone like this before,” he stated. The show also featured the actor’s mother, who was a Civil Rights activist, and participated in a march during the Freedom Summer of 1964. With all of the information gathered, they had about ten hours of footage to edit, thus their decision was to not include members of his ancestry who were slave owners.
Affleck, now coming clean, said that he regretted his initial decision to suppress the fact that there were slave owners in his ancestry. He told the press that while he is not happy about that aspect of his family, or has any particular affinity for the slave-owning ancestor, he is glad that this subject is being discussed and that there is a certain amount of remorse still in people’s minds about that era. “No one deserved credit or blame,” he reiterated, referring to himself and others with ancestors who owned slaves prior to the Civil War.
By Bill Ades