Staff Union of the National Audubon Society Changes Its Name, Severing Tie to Enslaver
22 Feb 2023
Today we are announcing that our union will no longer be named for John James Audubon. We will hold a vote to select our new name; in the meantime we will call ourselves The Bird Union.
We named our union Audubon for All after our employer, the National Audubon Society. But Audubon was not for all. The organization is named for John James Audubon, a racist white man who enslaved at least nine Black people and contributed to Samuel George Morton’s “race science,” which claimed white superiority over other races—ideas criticized at the time and now discredited.
Starting today we disavow the name. We will not elevate and celebrate a person who would reject and oppress our union members today. We call on the National Audubon Society to join us.
Changing our name is a small step to demonstrate our commitment to antiracism. We are fighting for a contract that helps ensure inclusion is the norm and not an afterthought, that provides underrepresented groups with support and protection, and that guarantees working conditions that are beneficial and accommodating for all of our members.
UPDATE March 16, 2023 Read our statement on Audubon Leadership's decision to not change the organization's 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