Ancestry.com ad tries to sell slavery as romance—not rape

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The site has pulled the ad, but not before insulting all Black Americans.

After swift and righteous backlash, genealogical site Ancestry.com has removed a controversial ad that trivializes slavery.

The ad, titled “Inseparable,” shows a white man promising his lover Abigail, a Black female slave, a better future if they ran away to the North. “There’s a place we can be together, across the border,” he says, while she nervously considers. “Will you leave with me?”

The ad fades, and the writing appears, “Without you, the story stops here.” A narrator is then heard saying, “Uncover the lost chapters of your family history with Ancestry.”

Abigail’s role appears to be consensual and that of a partner who is treated as an equal, which is outright disrespectful to all Black Americans for its whitewashing and rose-tinting of the history of slavery, in which Black women were owned and raped, not wooed and cajoled into “escaping to the North” with romantic promises.

The ad, which reportedly went up on April 2 and was taken down by Thursday, hit a 400-year-old wound for many. “This commercial spits on the trauma in our veins and the fight of our ancestors,” Brittany Packnett wrote.

Many commented about how this narrative fits in line with America’s longstanding pattern of white heroes and the erasure of the Black perspective. “Light skinned babies didn’t come from freedom fighting whites,” Ashton Womack wrote. “They came from rape.”

Some felt this was a glaring reflection of the lack of diversity at Ancestry.com, in that such an ad could only appear cute to people who can afford to have little context of the history of chattel slavery.

And some didn’t pass up the opportunity to take a dig at Ancestry’s audacity of making this commercial.

 

Ancestry.com told the Daily Dot in an emailed statement that they are taking this “feedback.”

“Ancestry is committed to telling important stories from history. This ad was intended to represent one of those stories,” it said. “We very much appreciate the feedback we have received and apologize for any offense that the ad may have caused. We are in the process of pulling the ad from television and have removed it from YouTube.”

Perhaps the next step is re-examining what it means to be—and for whom it is—”the world’s largest online history resource.”

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Samira Sadeque

Samira Sadeque

Samira Sadeque is a New York-based journalist reporting on immigration, sexual violence, and mental health, and will sometimes write about memes and dinosaurs too. Her work also appears in Reuters, NPR, and NBC among other publications. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School, and her work has been nominated for SAJA awards. Follow: @Samideque