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Affleck’s Ancestor Owned Slaves–Now What?

What the movie star could learn from the story of a woman who shared with her family, over Passover, that they had once owned slaves

by
Jonathan Zalman
April 20, 2015
Ben Affleck on 26, 2015 in Washington, DC.(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Ben Affleck on 26, 2015 in Washington, DC.(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Last Friday, the Daily Mail reported that Henry Louis Gates, host of PBS’s ‘Finding Your Roots,’ with the advice of Sony honcho Michael Lynton, excised the fact that one of Ben Affleck’s ancestors once owned slaves. The actor himself made the censorship request, to which PBS obliged, and the episode aired on October 14, 2014.

But Batman should not fear confronting this token of his family’s history.

Tablet contributor Debbie Nathan has walked this line before, which she documented in Vox Tablet’s Passover special. In the segment entitled ‘We’ll Be Here All Night, Part 2: Slavery,” Nathan recounts how she recently discovered that her family owned slaves during the pre-Civil War period, and then lets us eavesdrop as she shares this discovery with relatives at a family reunion. Find out how they reacted to the information–a tale from which Affleck might take solace if he decides to reckon with his family’s past.

Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.

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