New York City Audubon changes name over racist past

The New York City Audubon organization has officially changed its name to NYC Bird Alliance to distance itself from the history of John James Audubon, the 19th century naturalist who was also a slave owner and vocal opponent of abolition.

“After a multi-year process to assess the Audubon name and then to choose a new one, on June 5, 2024 the organization’s members voted to approve the new name, NYC Bird Alliance,” a page on the group’s website states, adding separately that “the use of ‘Audubon’ in our name affects our ability to retain and attract staff, board members, supporters, volunteers, and organization members.”

“While we value John James Audubon’s contributions to art and ornithology, and the foundation he laid for an appreciation of nature and a conservation ethos in this country, we recognize that his views and actions towards people of color and Indigenous people were harmful and offensive — and that the harm continues today, presenting a barrier to people who might otherwise become involved in or support our work.”

The National Audubon Society said last year that it would be keeping the Audubon name, in spite of calls to drop the reference to its namesake.

“This is an important time for birds and our shared planet, and this decision positions the organization to focus our equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging efforts and our conservation work where it is most urgently needed,” Susan Bell, the chairwoman of the National Audubon Society’s board of directors, said in a statement at the time.

“The name has come to represent so much more than the work of one person, but a broader love of birds and nature, and a non-partisan approach to conservation,” Bell added.

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