Ben Affleck’s Slave Owner Ancestor Will Be Revealed This Fall

Ben Affleck testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in February 2014.
Ben Affleck testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in February 2014. –Reuters

Update: Ben Affleck has released a statement saying he was “embarrassed’’ by his ancestor and regrets asking Gates to remove him from the episode. You can read the statement here.

Ben Affleck may have wanted to keep his ancestor’s slave owner past off his episode of PBS’s Finding Your Roots, but all will be revealed when the series’ companion book comes out this fall.

Show host and executive producer Henry Louis Gates, Jr. told that there will be a book for the show’s second season, and it will include additional information and research about the show’s guests that did not make it into the show — including Affleck’s ancestor.


The book, expected sometime in the fall, will be published by the University of North Carolina Press. UNC Press also published the companion book for the series’ first season.

“We do this because we film far more stories about a guest’s ancestry during the three-to-four-hour interview with them than we could ever possibly use in the broadcast of the series,’’ Gates said.

Leaked emails between Gates and Sony executive Michael Lynton indicated that Affleck asked Gates to edit the information about a slave-owning ancestor out of the show. Gates asked Lynton for advice, saying it would be against PBS policy to edit information out because of a guest’s request. Lynton said it would be a “bad idea’’ to do so, and Gates agreed.

But Affleck’s ancestor never appeared in the episode, which raised questions when the emails were leaked last week. Gates and PBS said in separate statements that the omission was made not because of Affleck’s request, but because he had other ancestors with more interesting stories that the show decided to spotlight instead.

Affleck hasn’t commented on the matter publicly, and his representatives have not responded to a request for comment.

“I try to do each guest’s ancestor the service of telling their story in full, and if we can’t use their story in the series, I can more adequately do that in the book,’’ Gates said.

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