Looking to a future where all can share and experience the joys of nature
Is the “Audubon” name a barrier to including some people and does it limit conservation work?
March 28, 2023 — For the past several years 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 essential to our progress.
John James Audubon was a seminal figure in the world of ornithology 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. He also collected the skulls of Native Americans on the Great Plains.
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.
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 staff do not take this history lightly. We 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 you may know, some Audubon Societies across the country are responding by changing their names. Those include Portland, Oregon, Chicago, and New York City. The National Audubon Society announced recently that it would not change its name.
Our internal discussions about John James Audubon’s mixed legacy are ongoing. It is an issue we take seriously, and while we have no timetable for making a decision, we will continue to consult and deliberate. The Connecticut Audubon Society is an independent organization and is not affiliated with the National Audubon Society, although we’re of course aware of their announcement.
We will continue to focus on our core conservation activities: protecting and improving habitats, managing sanctuaries and providing hiking and birding opportunities, educating students and adults, and advocating for better conservation laws and policies.
As our mission statement says: We envision that our efforts will lead to a future where all can share and experience the joys of nature and understand the importance of environmental protection.
The views of the members of our community are important, and we will surely consider anything you have to say on this issue. Please contact our interim executive director, Joyce Leiz, at email@example.com.
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.