The DNA testing company Ancestry.com on Thursday took down a controversial ad, which depicts a white man romantically pursuing a black woman in what appears to be the slave-owning South, amid a torrent of backlash from people who accused the company of whitewashing the violent history of slavery.
In the ad, called “Inseparable” and posted on Ancestry’s YouTube channel, a white man and a black woman described in a caption as “lovers” are seen trying to go unnoticed while running through the streets.“Abigail,” the man tells the woman as he pulls a gold ring from his pocket. “We can escape to the North. There’s a place we can be together, across the border.”
“Will you leave with me?” he asks as the video fades into black.
The ad was first posted online April 2.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Ancestry, one of the most popular at-home DNA testing companies for people seeking to trace their family history, apologized.
“Ancestry is committed to telling important stories from history,” the company said. “This ad was intended to represent one of those stories. We very much appreciate the feedback we have received and apologize for any offense that the ad may have caused.”
But the story the company attempted to tell was heavily criticized on social media for what many people called a revisionist version of history; in reality, biracial children born during this time were the often the result of violent rapes of women slaves by slave owners.
By Thursday afternoon, Ancestry had pulled the ad from its YouTube account, and said it was in the process of pulling the ad from television as well. But the company continued to get dragged online for being tone-deaf to the history of black people in the US.
The company did not answer BuzzFeed News’ questions about the ad and how it was created.
The ad appeared to be an effort to reach new black customers in the US. Although DNA ancestry companies like Ancestry.com, 23andMe, and FamilyTreeDNA have increased in popularity, the at-home testing kits have been more popular among those with European ancestry.