Friday, April 24, 2015

Say Their Name

Recently it was leaked that Ben Affleck asked Henry Louis Gates to conceal the fact on "Finding Your Roots" that Afflect had slave holding ancestors in his family tree. Affleck said he was "embarrassed" by this. Some people have criticized him for this. Others have commiserated with him. The thing is, if your American fore-bearers go back to the 18th and even 19th century, chances are some of them were slave holders.

I understand that this may be embarrassing for some. In the course of researching my ancestors, I have run across many embarrassing skeletons in my own  genealogical closet. Life is messy. It is impossible for anyone to have a squeaky clean legacy no matter how much we wish.

My main issue with Affleck's concealment is that by keeping that ancestor's name hidden, he is also keeping the names of the slaves held by his ancestors hidden. Their history is being kept from descendants who may be looking for them.

When "Who Do You Think You Are" aired that Reba McIntire had slave holders in her ancestry, it gave me clues to one of my illusive ancestors. I would never had known this if McIntire had got the producers to keep this embarrassing fact hidden. I haven't had a chance to follow through on that clue yet but because of that broadcast, I now know where to look.

During my years in researching my family, I have been helped personally by descendants of relatives of people who held my ancestors in slavery. I have also been helped by pertinent information posted online by people I will never meet. I wish more people would disclose details about their ancestors, shameful or not.The sins of the father is just that, the sins of the father. That is, unless the son and/or daughter chooses to commit the same sin.

My great grandparents were slaves. I am also the descendant of slave holders. That is my history and I can live with that.