Audubon Leadership Doubles Down on Racist Name
15 Mar 2023
The National Audubon Society’s decision to keep the name of enslaver and white supremacist John James Audubon shows that the Board and CEO Dr. Elizabeth Gray have no interest in following through on their commitments to cultivate a fair and equitable workplace. Their decision to double down on celebrating a white supremacist and to continue to brand our good work with his name actively inflicts harm on marginalized communities, including members of our union who for too long have been excluded from the environmental movement.
Following the announcement, Dr. Gray assured staff that Audubon centers “equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging values in our programmatic work, as well as our internal operations.” But we have heard many empty promises and declarations from Dr. Gray, and have rarely seen this commitment carried out at the bargaining table. We as the Bird Union will do all we can to hold Audubon accountable to that standard and continue to fight for a culture of inclusivity in our union contract.
The Bird Union stands by its decision to change its name via a democratic process. Read our statement on why we chose to change our name.
“Audubon enslaved people. He bought and sold humans like horses. That is evidence enough to recast the hero into a different role. The organizations bearing Audubon’s name must press forward in this new light and decide who and what they want to be.” — Black ornithologist and author J. Drew Lanham in Audubon magazine
“We must recognize that the institution of slavery in America’s past has a deep connection to institutions in the present . . . Audubon didn’t create the National Audubon Society, but he remains part of its identity.” — historian Greg Nobles on Audubon.org