The mixed legacy of John James Audubon
A statement from Executive Director Patrick Comins on behalf of our organization
August 27, 2020 — For the past several weeks there has been an important and renewed focus on issues of inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility in our society and institutions. Accordingly, the Connecticut Audubon Society and other Audubon societies across the country have been involved in discussions about the mixed legacy of John James Audubon. At the heart of these discussions is the issue of what his legacy means at a time when our diversity is recognized as a great strength, and inclusivity is viewed as so essential to our progress as a society.
John James Audubon was a seminal figure in the birding world and made enormous contributions to it. At the same time he had beliefs and performed actions in his personal life that can only be described as deplorable then and now. He bought, owned, and sold slaves. Beyond being an active slave trader, he also proudly told the story of returning escaped slaves to their original slaveholder.
The National Audubon Society has confronted this issue in an essay written by one of John James Audubon’s biographers, Gregory Nobles, which delves into Audubon’s history as a slave owner and slave trader. I commend National Audubon for its forthrightness in publishing it.
Recent events require a thorough examination of Audubon the man as well as Audubon the scientist, ornithologist and artist. Connecticut Audubon’s Board of Directors and I do not take this history lightly. I believe that we must confront it by examining our own organization’s responsibilities in today’s world as an institution dedicated to the inclusion of all members of society and by addressing our own shortcomings.
As always the views of the members of our community are important, and I will surely consider anything you have to say on this issue. Please contact me at email@example.com or by replying to this message.
The Connecticut Audubon Society is an organization of people who care about birds and wildlife, and recognizes the deep connection between humans and other living things. Our vision is that our efforts will lead to a state in which everyone in our diverse population appreciates and has access to nature, and we are firmly committed to achieving it.