Georgia Audubon to rebrand as Birds Georgia, ditches slaveholder’s name

FILE PHOTO: Three members of the Georgia Audubon Society look for birds.
(Courtesy of the Georgia Audubon Society / Photographer Stephen Weiss)

Credit: weiss stephen

Credit: weiss stephen

FILE PHOTO: Three members of the Georgia Audubon Society look for birds. (Courtesy of the Georgia Audubon Society / Photographer Stephen Weiss)

Georgia Audubon is changing its name to Birds Georgia in a bid to reach a wider audience of bird enthusiasts, the organization announced Thursday.

The group, which operates as an independent chapter of the National Audubon Society, is not the first state or local chapter to change its name in response to growing awareness about the legacy of its namesake, John James Audubon.

Audubon, a famous 19th-century artist known for his naturalistic renderings of birds, also enslaved people and held white supremacist views. Earlier this year, the national organization announced it would keep its name but has left it up to local chapters to decide on their own names. The change to Birds Georgia will not affect the group’s governance, fundraising or logo, a spokesperson said.

Chapters that have dropped Audubon include Detroit, Chicago, New York City and the California bay area, known as the “Golden Gate Bird Alliance,” formerly “Golden Gate Audubon Society.”

The Georgia state chapter’s executive director, Jared Teutsch, said the name change was supported by the organization’s members, many of whom said in surveys and listening sessions that Audubon was alienating not only because of his racist legacy, but also because the vast majority of Americans don’t know who he was or what the organization stands for.

“If you look it up, whether or not you view it associated with John James Audubon, who was not a good human being, or you associate it with a German superhighway — it’s not intuitive,” Teutsch said of the Audubon name. “It’s not a reflection of what the organization is centered on.”

The name change also comes amid a reckoning in birding circles with enduring racial divisions following the harassment of a Black bird watcher in New York City in 2020 that was captured on video.

Teutsch said he hoped the change would allow the organization to focus on its mission of creating places where “birds and people thrive.” He also cast it as a return to the group’s origins as the Atlanta Bird Club nearly a century ago.

“Becoming Birds Georgia is almost like everything old is new again,” he said.

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