May 17, 2015 3:07 PM by News Staff
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) - A family death in 1858 left Ben Affleck's great-great-great grandfather with legal custody of his mother-in-law's most valuable property - her slaves.
Nineteenth century documents offer a window into the life of the Hollywood star's ancestor, Benjamin L. Cole, during the South's reckoning with slavery. Cole had personal ties with slavery, with estate records showing his family owned at least two dozen slaves.
Cole had deep public ties as well. He served as sheriff of Chatham County, which includes Savannah, during a period that included the Civil War and its aftermath, a time when tensions mounted between newly freed slaves and whites desperate to maintain control.
Evidence that Affleck's distant relative owned slaves prompted the actor to ask PBS to cut Cole from a TV program highlighting Affleck's family tree.
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