Ancestry.com Slavery Ad Slammed in Memes and Personal Stories; Company Apologizing, Removing Controversial TV Spot

Online geneology- and DNA-testing site Ancestry.com pulled an online and TV advertisement after complaints that it presented slavery in a romantic light and used slavery as a promotional tool.

The ad, intended to promote Ancestry's Canadian site, appears to be set in the American South, before the emancipation of slaves, and features an unnamed white man meeting clandestinely with an African-American woman named Abigail.

"We can escape to the north. There's a place we can be together, across the border. Will you leave with me?" the man implores her. On-screen text then reads, "Without you, the story ends here," followed by a voiceover exhorting viewers to go to Ancestry's website.

Twitter users who saw the ad responded with memes calling out the clip's many problematic aspects and shared personal stories about how the ad had tainted their opinion of Ancestry.

Brittany Packnett, co-founder of Campaign Zero, shared her viewpoint in a tweet on Thursday. "I used this service a few years ago. And when I realized I was more than 10 percent European, I wept," wrote Packnett. "Not from shame for who I am, but from anger from the trauma of how it may have come to be. This commercial spits on the trauma in our veins and the fight of our ancestors."

A handful of Twitter users took the opportunity to spark a meme. A comedian and co-host of Showtime's Desus & Mero created his own script for the ad, mocking Ancestry's original version:

"White man: you can't sit here!

Rosa parks: why not?

White man: because you already have a place......in my heart.

*ancestry dot com logo with a soft fade out*."

That tweet had been shared more than 14,000 times by Friday afternoon and garnered more than 70,000 likes.

Writer Clint Smith also shared his own slam of Ancestry on Twitter. "Ancestry dot com: how can we overly romanticize & create an irresponsible, ahistorical depiction of the relationship between white men & black women during the period of chattel slavery that completely disregards its power dynamics & the trauma of sexual exploitation?" he wrote.

At TheRoot.com, writer Anne Branigan cited the ad as the latest example of America's long history of "papering over the reality of slavery-era interracial relationships."

"A 'relationship' with someone who owns you, or is at least capable of owning you, is coercion. It's rape," wrote Branigan in response to the Ancestry ad. "And for people coming to terms with that kind of history written in their bloodlines, it can be traumatizing."

Ancestry apologized for the spot in a statement to CBS News Friday.

"Ancestry is committed to telling important stories from history. This ad was intended to represent one of those stories," the Utah-based company said, adding that it had removed the video from its YouTube channel and was in the process of having it pulled from TV. "We very much appreciate the feedback we have received and apologize for any offense that the ad may have caused."

Ancestry.com Slavery Ad Slammed in Memes and Personal Stories; Company Apologizing, Removing Controversial TV Spot | Culture