National Audubon Society votes to keep name 

The conservation organization’s board argued the name transcended its namesake’s racist past

The National Audubon Society has voted to retain its name, despite calls to sever the organization from its namesake’s reputation as a racist. John James Audubon is renowned as an 18th century naturalist and illustrator, but his role as a slaveholder known to hold racist views of Black and Indigenous people has drawn fire. The National Audubon Society was founded in the beginning of the 20th century, more than a half century after Audubon’s death. Elizabeth Gray, chief executive of the National Audubon Society, said the board concluded that the organization transcended the name, and that the name had come to symbolize the organization’s achievements. Many organizations, including the Bird Union that many National Audubon Society staff belong to, criticized the decision. Some local chapters of the society have already changed their names.

Following their process for considering the name change, the Society has pledged an additional $25 million to fund expansion of equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging work.

See the National Audubon Society’s Statement about the decision or Read more in The New York Times.

Header Image: The use of John James Audubon’s name has become controversial, not only in the namesake conservation organization but in the names of species, like the Audubon’s warbler (Setophaga auduboni). Many scientists are now seeking other names. Credit: Melissa McMasters