In last Sunday’s service, I spoke about the legacy of John James Audubon. Thanks to Ellizabeth Roderick for letting me know that I had confused two organizations with similar names. Although this confusion doesn’t change my basic message, there is enough confusion and misinformation in the world that I want to clarify and correct what I said.
The article that I mentioned was from the magazine of the National Audubon Society (NAS). That’s a large, national organization with 23 state programs, 41 centers, and 450+ local chapters, according to Elizabeth. The NAS is not changing its name and has acknowledged Audubon’s racist history. Elizabeth shared a recent statement from NAS Chief Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Officer Jamaal Nelson:
There is no denying that John James Audubon was a racist and yet today is a globally recognized name synonymous with birds. We are starting a 12-18 month process to think through what John James Audubon’s legacy means to the future of the organization. But, our EDIB work must include far more than consideration of a name. At the same time, we are rebuilding the organization’s workplace culture from the ground up to address racist and misogynistic systems that impact the daily experience of our staff. This work will take time because being inclusive in processes takes time. We’re working to create an inclusive organization from the inside out built for the 2020s and beyond.
The organization that I mentioned that IS changing its name is the Audubon Naturalist Society (ANS), full name: The Audubon Naturalist Society of the Central Atlantic States. This small environmental non-profit is based in Washington, DC and manages three wildlife sanctuaries in Virginia and Maryland.
I’m sorry for the confusion on my part.
There’s no argument that John James Audubon left a legacy. How we understand it and how we tell the whole story is up to us.
Elizabeth Roderick is the acting President of our local Black Hills Audubon Society chapter, which has an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion committee and among other things is considering a name change. If you’d like more information, you can contact Elizabeth at firstname.lastname@example.org