Audubon’s class in Seattle will change his name, scold a enslaved


One of the biggest chapters in the National Audubon Society’s network is changing its name to distance itself from John James Audubon, the famous naturalist who was also a enslaved and a strong critic of those who sought to free African Americans from slavery.

In a virtual meeting with members on Tuesday, Seattle Audubon leaders described the measure as a bold move to be among the first to change its name to promote “anti-racism,” diversity and inclusion—and perhaps set an example for 117 years—the old society over 450 chapters to follow. The dismissal’s decision to make the change was approved weeks ago by a 9-0 vote.

“The shameful legacy of the true John James Audubon, not the mythical version, runs counter to the mission and values ​​of this organization,” said Claire Catania, executive director of the Seattle chapter.

The move is part of an account in ornithology and the broader American conservation movement to address historical racism in their organizations and practices. Seattle Audubon said it will likely take six months to find a new name.

in the past months, save groups Like the Audubon, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Environmental Defense Fund, they wrestled with national parks and monuments made up of lands stolen from Aboriginal people and honorary bird names given to men who were Indian grave robbers, enslavement and racists who in some cases compared black people to orangutans.

Audubon, an accomplished painter of American birds, stands out as one of the most recognized names in conservation. He had been dead for about 45 years when, in 1896, two Massachusetts women called a society began a conservation of endangered egrets in his honor, with little regard for his more troubling past. Now, the organizations that were born weigh his entire history.

Both the Seattle organization and the national group considered the name change for more than a year. Last year, Elizabeth Gray, interim chief executive of the National Audubon Society, said it was “very troubled“Through Audubon’s racist actions but the group had a lot to unravel when thinking about what to do about it.

Society is still disintegrating. “The National Audubon Society is still in the process of comprehensive exploration of John James Audubon and has not yet made a decision on our name,” Gray said in a statement on Wednesday.

Gray acknowledged Seattle Audubon’s actions, describing the class as an independent organization that “we respect their work…because they…represent themselves to the community they serve.”

Seattle Audubon isn’t alone, said Glenn Nelson, the branch’s community manager. When its board of directors drafted a resolution to change its name in favor of diversity and inclusion in its ranks and throughout preservation, three other chapters in Wisconsin, New York and San Francisco signed a clause demanding that the national chapter be more transparent about it. Discussion regarding a possible name change.

Another group, the Audubon Naturalist Society in Chevy Chase, is expected to complete its renaming process in October. Its CEO, Lisa Alexander, He said last year The community considers a name change since 2010. In 2020, the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer pushed the issue to the top of the group’s agenda.

The January 6, 2021 riots at the Capitol made change an even greater priority. Did that speed up the conversation? Alexander said. “you betcha.”

Although the Seattle Audubon resolution was approved unanimously, it came at a price, some of its leaders say. After the decision was announced, one of the board members resigned and asked to have her resume cleared from the site. The official was not named.

As the national organization considers a name change, it should consider potential backlash from chapters in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia and California where conservative members and donors are likely to be hostile to the Seattle Audubon’s rationale for the change.

Even in liberal Seattle, there was resistance during the virtual call this week. While most members applauded the move, saying they were proud to be part of an organization taking such a bold step, few strongly objected to it.

“Do you have empirical evidence that … keeping the name Audubon causes great harm to society? Are people of color boycotting us?” one member wrote in the chat.

Other than Glenn, a Japanese American, there were no people of color actively participating in the discussion over the call. Mainly white people were talking to other white people in an organization that was more than 90 percent white.

Another person wrote, “I am concerned about dropping Audubon’s name because historical figures should not adhere to today’s standards.” “I think it’s tragic for the natural world.”

It was Audubon Slaves without shame. Writing in Audubon magazine, when Britain freed slaves in the West Indies, Gregory Nobles wrote to his wife in 1834 that the government had “acted unwisely and recklessly.” It was not too far off the character of the man who “taken two enslaved men with him 15 years ago across the Mississippi River to New Orleans on a dinghy, and when he got there, he offered the boat and the men for sale.”

He worked nine enslaved Audubon in Henderson, Kentucky, and when he needed the money, he sold them.

Audubon was condemned during his time by the abolitionist movement who worked to free the enslaved. In contrast, abolitionists rejected “on both sides of the Atlantic,” Gordon wrote.

Far from Audubon, racism and colonialism are in the DNA of conservation. Everything including mountains, grass, and parks had offensive and racist names that could not be repeated.

In the archives of the American Ornithological Society, Wallace’s owl and five other birds honor Alfred Russell Wallace, the British naturalist who helped Charles Darwin conceptualize evolution.

Wallace frequently used the n-word in his writing, including when he referred to a “hairy brown little boy” who bragged about his care after killing his mother in 1855. He was talking about an orangutan.

Mount Rushmore was carved into the land of the indigenous tribes Continue to claim. There were at least six indigenous tribes in what is now Yellowstone National Park. Everglades National Park was once dominated by the Seminoles, who were forcibly removed.

Nelson said, “The assumption when you say you’re going to remove the name, is that you’re trying to cancel Audubon. We’re not trying to completely cancel John James Audubon. Most of his art was…was important to that era and still resonates.”

“We’re only saying the things he did during his life don’t reflect our values ​​and don’t fit our view of what the present is and what the future should be.”

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