Ben Affleck and the sins of great-great-great-grandfathers

Last September PBS aired an episode of Finding Your Roots, a program about genealogy featuring celebrities who get a tour of their family tree and their genetic makeup in the hopes of a tearful revelation. Movie star Ben Affleck was featured alongside Benjamin Jealous, CEO of the NAACP, and actress Khandi Alexander (Treme, CSI: Miami) on a show themed around the two wars that shaped America’s first century – the Civil War and the Revolutionary War.

It wasn’t a surprise that both Jealous and Alexander, who are African-American, learned about ancestors who were slaves, but they were both shocked to learn that they also had ancestors who owned slaves. For some reason, though, the slavery thread apparently didn’t pass through Affleck’s family tree, and instead we learned about a great-great-great-grandfather who set himself up as a medium after the Civil War, channelling the spirits of soldiers for their bereaved families.

But thanks to Wikileaks’ trove of emails hacked from Sony Pictures, news broke months later that Affleck had learned during filming that he did have a slave-owning ancestor, and that the star of Daredevil and Gigli had pressured the show’s producer to edit this out…

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