Genealogical website Ancestry.com has apologized for a video advertisement depicting a white man in the 1800s telling a black woman they can “escape to the north.”
The ad, which aired on television and was posted on YouTube, shows the characters dressed in clothing from the 1800s running through an alley when they stop to talk.
The man holds a ring in his left fingers and tells the woman, named Abigail, that they can escape to the north. She starts to reply but he cuts her off saying they can go across the border where there is a place they can be together.
“Will you leave with me?” the man asks.
Critics said the commercial evoked images of slavery in the United States and a time when black women were subjugated and raped by white slave owners.
“What the hell is this @Ancestry?” Bishop Talbert Swan tweeted. “Why do white people insist on romanticizing my Black female ancestors experiences with white men during slavery? They were raped, abused, treated like animals, beaten, and murdered by white men. Stop with the revisions.”
As the video ends, a “marriage certificate” appears on the screen, saying that the couple portrayed were wed in Canada in 1857.
The ad, titled “Inseparable,” was published April 2 on YouTube, but the video went viral on Twitter Thursday and was later removed from the video-sharing platform.
In a statement sent to the media, the company, also one of the largest DNA-testing sites, said: “Ancestry is committed to telling important stories from history. 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.”
CNN has reached out to Ancestry to seek more information about the ad, which directed users to ancestry.ca.