• Ancestry.com deletes ad criticized for romanticizing slavery

    By: Fiza Pirani, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    Updated:

    Genealogy database Ancestry.com has deleted a controversial commercial criticized by many for romanticizing slavery.

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    The ad set in 1800s America depicted a white man asking a black woman named Abigail to “escape to the north” with him.

    “Will you leave with me?” the man asks, ring in hand.

    The Ancestry.com video, titled “Inseparable,” ended with an on-screen “marriage certificate” suggesting the couple wed in Canada in 1857.

    Though the ad originally aired on YouTube on Tuesday, April 2, the video made the rounds on social media this week, prompting accusations of the romanticization of slavery in an era “of chattel slavery that completely disregards its power dynamics & the trauma of sexual exploitation,” Clint Smith, a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard, tweeted.

    Other historians, reporters and academics took to social media to call out Ancestry.com’s “reprehensible” commercial.

    The company made a public apology to the media Thursday as backlash grew.

    "Ancestry is committed to telling important stories from history,” spokeswoman Gina Spatafore said in a statement. “This ad was intended to represent one of those stories. We very much appreciate the feedback we have received and apologize for any offense that the ad may have caused.”

    The original video, which directed users to ancestry.ca, has since been removed from YouTube.

    In 2016, a group of geneticists found in the DNA of 3,726 living African Americans “marks of slavery’s cruelties, including further evidence that white slaveowners routinely fathered children with women held as slaves,” the New York Times reported.

    As they examined proportions of European DNA in the population, the scientists also noted that X chromosomes, which are inherited in higher percentages from women, had greater African ancestry than other chromosomes, suggesting slaveowners “were raping the women they held captive,” the researchers told the Times.

    The findings, they reiterated in the study, were “consistent with historical accounts of ‘a marked decline in both interracial sexual coercion and interracial intimacy’ at the end of the Civil War.”

    The research was published in the journal PLOS Genetics.

     

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