The Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man author will take over for Chris Harrison on After the Final Rose

After Chris Harrison said he was "stepping away" from the ABC show following a controversial interview, former NFL star-turned-author Emmanuel Acho will take over as host for the After the Final Rose special, airing immediately after Bachelor Matt James' finale on March 15.

"This is huge for me in the work for racial reconciliation," Acho, who hosts the web series Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man and authored a best-selling book by the same name, tells PEOPLE. "Because it shows that in the midst of turmoil, racial turmoil, across one of America's most watched shows over the last two decades, I'm seen as a thought generator." 

"So, it's a humbling opportunity and it's a privilege to be considered," adds Acho, 30.

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The shakeup began when Harrison, 49, in an interview with former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay, appeared to defend the past racist actions of current contestant Rachael Kirkconnell.

The ensuing public reaction was swift, with many calling for Harrison's ousting, while some placed blame on Kirkconnell, or even Lindsay herself. (Harrison has since issued two apologies.)

Since then, the former attorney has deactivated her Instagram after receiving a slew of hateful messages, while Kirkconnell, 24, has issued an apology and says she's dedicating her Instagram page to anti-racism resources.

chris harrison
Chris Harrison
| Credit: John Fleenor/Getty

For Acho, stepping in to take over during Harrison's absence wasn't out of the blue. He was asked to compete on The Bachelorette twice and it was Lindsay who encouraged him to create his web series and write his book.

"Emmanuel has been cultivating relationships with ABC for years," says a source. "He is very close with Rachel, and he has a close friendship with Becca Kufrin."

Many members of Bachelor Nation have spoken out in support of Acho's new role, including Kufrin, Lindsay's husband Bryan Abasolo and James himself.

Says the source of Acho's much anticipated Bachelor debut: "He looks forward to having a meaningful conversation — with Matt and the three finalists."

The Bachelor: After the Final Rose special will air on Monday, March 15 at 10 p.m. ET on ABC, immediately following the season finale of The Bachelor.