*Last summer, Dr. Henry Louis Gates told the Television Critics Association about Ben Affleck’s 3rd great grandfather Almon Bruce French while promoting his series “Finding Your Roots 2,” which would premiere several months later.
Little did we know that French, a popular 19th century spiritualist, may not have ever been discovered by show researchers had another discovery been allowed to air.
Via WikiLeaks, emails between Gates and Sony Pictures co-chairman and chief executive Michael Lynton from last year’s Sony hack were dumped into a searchable online archive Thursday along with thousands of other documents and emails. Without referring to Affleck by name, the Gates/Lynton email exchange refers to a “megastar” and “Batman” as having requested that his October segment not reveal he had a slave owning ancestor.
In seeking Lynton’s advice on how to handle it, Gates wrote, “Now, four or five of our guests this season descend from slave owners, including Ken Burns. We’ve never had anyone ever try to censor or edit what we found.”
While that may be true, it certainly isn’t the first time that a descendant of a slave owner has caused headaches for production. Gates also told the TCA about an incident during a 2012 segment on Harlem educator Geoffrey Canada.
Below, Gates says he ran into resistance while trying to track down the white father of Canada’s slave ancestor.
Below, watch the Geoffrey Canada episode in full. (Dr. Gates tells Canada about the Canaday descendants’ refusal to take a DNA test at 42:59.)