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Will Audubon Fla change its name?

The Seattle Audubon society recently announced it will be dropping the name “Audubon” from its organizational name. John James Audubon, for whom the group was named when it was formed in the late 1800s, is known for painting and describing all the birds of America in his foundational text The Birds of America. But Audubon’s history also contains despicable acts, even by the standards of his day, according to the Audubon Society’s own website. He enslaved and bought and sold Black people, wrote in opposition to emancipating slaves, and even stole human skulls and sent them to a colleague who used them to assert the superiority of white people over non-white people.

The Maryland Audubon Society removed the name from its organization last year.

Here in Southwest Florida, many people enjoy birdwatching, and the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is a beloved natural area for observing birds and other wildlife. WGCU inquired whether Audubon Florida is planning on changing its name, “to create a more inclusive and antiracist future,” as the Seattle organization wrote.

Elizabeth Gray, CEO of the National Audubon Society, answered by email:

“Seattle Audubon is an independent chapter of the National Audubon Society and we respect their autonomy as they do their important work and represent themselves to the community that they serve,” she wrote. “The National Audubon Society is still in the process of a comprehensive exploration of John James Audubon and has not yet made a decision about our name.”

So for now, the National and Florida Audubon societies will keep their names as is. Stay tuned to WGCU for updates on this story.

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