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Audubon Naturalist Society to change name since John James Audubon — born in 1785 — was a slave owner and 'white supremacist'

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John James Audubon (1785 - 1851), circa 1810. Original Publication: Illustrated London News - pub. Feb. 15, 1851. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The Audubon Naturalist Society — a leading environmental nonprofit that's more than a century old — will change its name due to John James Audubon's racist reputation, the Washingtonian reported.

What are the details?

Audubon was an American naturalist who lived from 1785 to 1851 and is famous for his study and drawings of birds. But controversy over his past has put Audubon under a negative spotlight: The Washington Post earlier this year ran a lengthy feature on the subject, titled "The racist legacy many birds carry," which was met with a good bit of mockery:

And the Audubon Naturalist Society is taking action.

No longer a 'suitable namesake for us'

"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," executive director Lisa Alexander told the Washingtonian. "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 outlet said ANS over the last decade has focused on inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility for the first time in over a century and created two annual conferences to highlight environmentalists of color: Taking Nature Black and Naturally Latinos.

The Washingtonian added that ANS is the "first major Audubon-affiliated organization to scrub the naturalist from its name." The aforementioned Washington Post article highlighted a different group — the National Audubon Society — and quoted its interim chief executive, who said she's "deeply troubled by the racist actions of John James Audubon."

While the Washingtonian said the National Audubon Society announced no plans to change its name, the outlet noted that the Audubon Naturalist Society will take a year to figure out a new moniker — and likely will simply use its ANS acronym in the interim.

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