Ancestry.com Apologizes for Ad Romanticizing Slavery

Ancestry.com issued an apology following backlash over an advertisement that romanticizes slavery. The advertisement, which has been taken down from YouTube, was titled “Inseparable” and takes place during the 1800s. The commercial shows a white man and a Black woman named Abigail meeting each other secretly in a misty town. The man tells Abigail that he knows of a place where the two can escape and be together. In the video, which has been shared on Twitter, the man can be seen holding a ring.

“Abigail, we can escape to the North," the man says. "There is a place we can be together, across the border. Will you leave with me?" The ad then cuts to the tagline, "Without you, the story stops here," and a marriage certificate that states the couple were wed in Canada in 1857. The controversial ad caught the attention of social media on Thursday, where many criticized the genealogy services company for romanticizing slavery.

“What the hell is this @Ancestry? Why do white people insist on romanticizing my Black female ancestors (sic) experiences with white men during slavery? They were raped, abused, treated like animals, beaten, and murdered by white men. Stop with the revisions,” Bishop Talbert Swan tweeted on Thursday.

“One of about 1,000 awful things about this commercial is it ignores the fact that for Black Americans—myself included—and for others in the diaspora, DNA and documentary ancestry information is as painful and traumatic as it is illuminating. These are not love stories,” wrote Kimberly Atkins on Twitter. “If there were EVER a company that should have historians on staff who should know better, Ancestry dot com is clearly a good contender,” tweeted Natalia Mehlman Petrzela.

In a statement to The North Star, the company apologized if the ad offended anyone and confirmed that it had removed the video from YouTube. “Ancestry is committed to telling important stories from history. 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 company said. “We are in the process of pulling the ad from television and have removed it from YouTube.”

In 2016, The New York Times reported about a study on African American genomic diversity during The Great Migration. Dr. Simon Gravel, a geneticist at McGill University in Montreal, and his team analyzed DNA from 3,726 African Americans in three separate medical studies. The researchers discovered “the marks of slavery’s cruelties, including further evidence that white slave owners routinely fathered children with women held as slaves,” the Times noted.

The researchers also discovered that today, the average African American ancestor is 82.1 percent African, 16.7 percent European and 1.2 percent Native American. The X chromosome of African Americans also shows greater African ancestry when compared to other chromosomes. Because the X chromosome presents more dominantly in females, researchers believe European men and African women were having children—which means that Black women were likely being raped by their enslavers, according to The New York Times.


About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.