It’s far worse than I thought. In addition to the many links between the family that owns The New York Times and the Civil War Confederacy, new evidence shows that members of the extended family were slaveholders.
Last Sunday, I recounted that Bertha Levy Ochs, the mother of Times patriarch Adolph S. Ochs, supported the South and slavery. She was caught smuggling medicine to Confederates in a baby carriage and her brother Oscar joined the rebel army.
I have since learned that, according to a family history, Oscar Levy fought alongside two Mississippi cousins, meaning at least three members of Bertha’s family fought for secession.
Adolph Ochs’ own “Southern sympathies” were reflected in the content of the Chattanooga Times, the first newspaper he owned, and then The New York Times. The latter published an editorial in 1900 saying the Democratic Party, which Ochs supported, “may justly insist that the evils of negro suffrage were wantonly inflicted on them.”
Six years later, the Times published a glowing profile of Confederate President Jefferson Davis on the 100th anniversary of his birth, calling him “the great Southern leader.”
Ochs reportedly made contributions to rebel memorials, including $1,000 to the enormous Stone Mountain Memorial in Georgia that celebrates Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. He made the donation in 1924 so his mother, who died 16 years earlier, could be on the founders’ roll, adding in a letter that “Robert E. Lee was her idol.”
In the years before his death in 1931, Ochs’ brother George was simultaneously an officer of The New York Times Company and a leader of the New York Chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.Enlarge ImageJohn Mayer, who was married into the Ochs family and a slave registry.
All that would be bad enough given that the same family still owns the Times and allows it to become a leader in the movement to demonize America’s founding and rewrite history to put slavery at its core. As part of that revisionism, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln are suddenly beyond redemption, their great deeds canceled by their flaws.
But shouldn’t such breathtaking self-righteousness include the responsibility to lead by example? Shouldn’t the Times first clean out the Confederates in its own closet?
That was the question last week. It is now more urgent because of the new information.
A week ago, I was “aware of no evidence or claims that any members of Bertha’s family owned slaves or participated in the slave trade.”
That statement is no longer accurate. I have found compelling evidence that the uncle Bertha Levy Ochs lived with for several years in Natchez, Miss., before the Civil War owned at least five slaves.
He was her father’s brother and his name was John Mayer because he dropped the surname Levy, according to a family tree compiled by the Ochs-Sulzberger clan some 70 years ago.
Mayer was a store owner and prominent leader of the small Jewish community in Natchez and, during the war, organized a home-guard unit, according to family letters and historians.
Neither the 1860 census nor its separate “slave schedule” lists the names of Mayer’s slaves. They are identified as two males, ages 70 and 26, and three females, ages 65, 45 and 23.
That makes it likely that Mayer had slaves when niece Bertha lived with him for several years before she married Julius Ochs in 1853. Mayer and his wife had 14 children and were affluent enough that it would have been unusual if they didn’t own slaves, according to Robert Rosen, author of “The Jewish Confederates.”
Bertha, who came from Germany as a teenager, might have been horrified by the experience of witnessing and being served by human chattel. Instead, she fully embraced the barbaric practice and became devoted to the “peculiar institution.” She was a charter member of a Daughters of the Confederacy chapter and requested that a Confederate flag be draped across her coffin, which it was.
Separately, there is also compelling evidence that the brother of a Revolutionary War-era ancestor of the Sulzberger branch of the family was involved in the slave trade.
His name was Abraham Mendes Seixas, and he was born in New York City in 1750. He was an officer in the Continental Army during the war, then stayed in South Carolina, where accounts describe him as a slave merchant and/or auctioneer.
“The Final Victims,” a 2004 book about the slave trade by James McMillin, reprints a poem published in a Charleston newspaper in 1784 advertising an upcoming sale.
It reads in part:
“Abraham Seixas . . . He has for sale, Some Negroes, male
“Will suit full well grooms,
“He has likewise Some of their wives
“Can make clean, dirty rooms.
“For planting, too, He has a few
“To sell, all for cash, . . . or bring them to the lash.”
A few lines later, Seixas adds, “The young ones, true, if that will do.”
The discovery of these lurid histories gives me no pleasure. The Ochs-Sulzberger family is a great American family that has served our nation in war and peace since its founding. Ochs himself turned the struggling New York Times into the gold standard of journalism and the paper under his heirs often took great risks to defend the First Amendment.
I will forever be grateful to the lessons I learned during my 16 years there. But it was a different paper then, one where standards of fairness were enforced and reporters’ biases were left on the cutting-room floor.
Now the standards are on the cutting-room floor, with every story dominated by reporters’ opinions. The result is a daily train wreck that bears little resemblance to the traditions of what used to be a great newspaper, trusted because it was impartial.
Even worse, the Times has moved beyond overt partisanship to declare itself the decider of all things relating to race. Its 1619 Project insists that slavery was the key to the nation’s founding, and that the war for independence was primarily about perpetuating white supremacy.
This narrative is deeply misguided, according to a long list of top historians. Yet the paper is not deterred, and has ramped up its demonization of any who disagree with that or its reckless support for the Marxist-inspired Black Lives Matter agenda.
Handcuff the cops, tear down the statues, rewrite the textbooks, make America the world’s bad guy — that’s what today’s Times is selling.
Anyone with such an activist agenda better be purer than Caesar’s wife. The Times clearly fails that test and owes its staff, stockholders and readers a full account of the slave holders and Confederates in its past.
My hope is that after taking a dose of their own medicine, the owner and editors will focus their efforts where they belong: on making The New York Times a great newspaper again.