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Affleck: Slavery ancestry is embarrassing

Published 22/04/2015

Ben Affleck
Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck has spoken out about why he asked for references to his slave-owning ancestor be removed from family history documentary programme Finding Your Roots.

The 42-year-old Argo actor came under fire after hacked Sony emails revealed he requested history about his deceased slave-owning relative be removed from his episode of family genealogy TV programme Finding Your Roots.

And on Facebook Tuesday, Ben took time out to explain why he didn’t want this information featured on the show.

“After an exhaustive search of my ancestry for Finding Your Roots, it was discovered that one of my distant relatives was an owner of slaves,” he wrote in the post.

“I didn't want any television show about my family to include a guy who owned slaves. I was embarrassed. The very thought left a bad taste in my mouth.”

Esteemed Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., also known as Skip, hosts PBS’ Finding Your Roots.

Although Ben asserts he is “proud” to be Skip’s friend and is “proud to have participated” in the programme, the Hollywood A-lister still didn’t think it was appropriate for the slave ancestor information to be broadcast.

“Finding Your Roots is a show where you voluntarily provide a great deal of information about your family, making you quite vulnerable,” the star noted. “The assumption is that they will never be dishonest but they will respect your willingness to participate and not look to include things you think would embarrass your family.”

Ben now has second thoughts about requesting his slave-owning ancestor be omitted from the episode.

In hindsight the Academy Award-winner believes it may have sparked important discussion about America’s dark history.

“I regret my initial thoughts that the issue of slavery not be included in the story. We deserve neither credit nor blame for our ancestors and the degree of interest in this story suggests that we are, as a nation, still grappling with the terrible legacy of slavery,” Ben noted. “It is an examination well worth continuing. I am glad that my story, however indirectly, will contribute to that discussion. While I don't like that the guy is an ancestor, I am happy that aspect of our country's history is being talked about.”

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