Posted on October 29, 2021

Major DC Conservation Group Will Omit Racist “Audubon” From Its Name

Anna Spiegel, Washingtonian, October 25, 2021

Leading environmental organization Audubon Naturalist Society (ANS) will change its name, citing the racist reputation of 19th-century naturalist John James Audubon. The American ornithologist has become an increasingly controversial figure amidst a renewed focus on his role as an enslaver and anti-abolitionist.

“It’s very exciting here at ANS. We’ve been working over a decade to think very carefully about the region we serve—one of the most diverse in the nation,” says executive director Lisa Alexander. “As we began to dig into serving all people in the DC region, we also started to get a fair amount of publicity about who Audubon was—an enslaver of Black people, a published white supremacist. He just didn’t seem like a suitable namesake for us.”

The name change is just the most recent evolution towards inclusivity at the 124-year-old nonprofit, the oldest independent environmental organization in the DC area. {snip} In the past decade, the nonprofit has updated its strategic plan to include a focus on inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility for the first time in over a century. The group also created two annual conferences to highlight environmentalists of color, Taking Nature Black and Naturally Latinos {snip}


ANS is the first major Audubon-affiliated organization to scrub the naturalist from its name. The National Audubon Society, which claims 500 local chapters around the country, condemned Audubon’s role in slavery and acknowledged its troubled roots. No plans have been announced to change the name.