Ancestry.com pulls tone-deaf ad that critics say romanticizes slavery
The company which helps people find their roots through genetic and historical research apologized for an advertisement that seems to miss the true racial dynamics of slavery
Genealogy organization Ancestry.com has pulled an ad after critics blasted the company on social media for allegedly making slavery look like a romanticized adventure.
In the 30-second spot titled “Inseparable,” a white man and a Black woman in Civil War period clothing are shown running and then stop to look at one another. With a backdrop of soft music, the man offers the woman what appears to be a ring and says, “Abigail, we can escape to the North. There’s a place we can be together — across the border.”
Words on screen then advise viewers, “Without you, the story stops here.” A narrator then says, “Uncover the lost chapters of your family history with Ancestry.”
The ad began airing earlier this month in Canada and it is not known if it aired in other places, NBC News reported. Ancestry moved to pull the piece and issued an apology.
“Ancestry is committed to telling important stories from history. This ad was intended to represent one of those stories,” the company said in a statement published by CNN. “We very much appreciate the feedback we have received and apologize for any offense that the ad may have caused.”
That apology came after backlash that was swift and harsh. Many critics pointed out that actual romantic relationships like the one depicted in the ad were extremely rare, if they existed at all. Numerous historical documents and studies reveal that the majority of mixed-race children born during slavery were the product of the rapes of Black women by white slaveowners.
Bishop Talbert Swan, Boston-area activist and pastor, posted his shock to Twitter.
What the hell is this @Ancestry?
Why do white people insist on romanticizing my Black female ancestors experiences with white men during slavery?
They were raped, abused, treated like animals, beaten, and murdered by white men. Stop with the revisions.pic.twitter.com/cDEWdkzJPm
— Bishop Talbert Swan (@TalbertSwan) April 18, 2019
Dr. Crystal Webster, an assistant history professor at the University of Texas in San Antonio, issued a series of angry tweets with the hashtag #cancelancestry.
“This is abhorrent,” she posted to Twitter. “Far from funny. The silence from @Ancestry on this is deafening. As I said I will make it my life’s work as a Black woman historian to #cancelancestry if they don’t do something about this.”
“Ooooh my God,” Business Insider producer Manny Fidel posted to Twitter. “Who approved this Ancestry commercial?”
Ancestry, founded in 1983, is based in Legi, Utah.