Ben Affleck tried to sell his sprawling Greek Revival “imitation” plantation — the site of his elaborate wedding to Jennifer Lopez Saturday — three years after revelations surfaced that one of his ancestors was a slave-owning Georgia sheriff.
In 2015, the Hollywood actor tried to suppress details about Benjamin Cole, a relative on his mother’s side who owned several slaves in Chatham County, near his 87-acre Hampton Island property. Affleck purchased the property in 2003, according to reports.
The revelations about Cole were made on PBS’s “Finding Your Roots” hosted by Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Affleck put the lavish property, which includes a deep water port and a 6,000-square-foot home known as “the Big House,” on the market for $8.9 million in 2018. He lowered the price to $7.6 million the following year before taking it off the market, property records show.
Built in 2000, the property was designed by Atlanta-based architect James Strickland to resemble a southern plantation. It also includes a 10,000 square foot guest house and equestrian facilities.
Actors Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds courted controversy when they wed at a plantation style home. An expert on slavery said she was shocked that Affleck and Lopez decided to have such a splashy wedding at a plantation-style home.
“When he discovered who his ancestors were he tried to squelch it,” said Leslie Harris, co-editor of “Slavery and Freedom in Savannah” and a professor of history at Northwestern University. “It’s clear he didn’t learn his lesson. We’re back at the same place with him. People still build houses that are plantation style. It’s a sign of wealth. It’s surprising that Affleck would choose this place for his wedding when many (historic) plantations have stopped even having weddings.”
There were more than 46,000 plantations in operation in 1860 in the American South, and nearly 4 million slaves in the U.S., with 2.5 million in the “Cotton Belt” alone. Today, there are about 375 plantation museums in the U.S., most of which do not hold weddings, according to a report.
Many major wedding businesses have taken steps to distance themselves from the plantation venues. In 2019, several wedding-planning sites like Pinterest, The Knot, and Zola, pledged to stop promoting plantation weddings and using language that romanticizes them.
Affleck said he fell in love with the area while filming “Forces of Nature” with actress Sandra Bullock in the late 1990s. He bought the property for $7.11 million, according to public records.