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Times Regrets ‘Slave Mistress’ in Julian Bond’s Obituary

Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP National Board of Directors, speaks during the 97th Annual Convention of the NAACP, Sunday, July 16, 2006, in Washington. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP National Board of Directors, speaks during the 97th Annual Convention of the NAACP, Sunday, July 16, 2006, in Washington. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

(New York Times) – After Julian Bond’s death on Saturday, The Times published a lengthy and well-written obituary summing up the life and work of the civil rights champion. But many readers were bothered by a single sentence in the front-page article:

“Julian Bond’s great-grandmother Jane Bond was the slave mistress of a Kentucky farmer.”

Many readers wrote to me to protest the phrase, on the grounds that a slave, by definition, can’t be in the kind of consensual or romantic relationship that the word “mistress” suggests. One of them noted it wasn’t the first time the phrase had appeared in a Times obituary.

Many of the readers echoed the sentiments of Shaun King, who wrote on Daily Kos:

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