Published on August 14, 2020

Examining Our History

Portrait of John James Audubon
Portrait of John James Audubon via National Portrait Gallery

Mass Audubon was founded in 1896 by cousins Harriet Hemenway and Minna Hall, two women of privilege who came from a family of abolitionists. After learning of the cruel and deadly treatment of birds for fashion, Hemenway and Hall—who had a passion for birds, nature, and public service—enlisted other members of their social circle to fight for the protection of birds. They formed a conservation group using the last name of bird artist John James Audubon, who had died 45 years earlier but remained a towering, iconic figure.

Other than in name, John James Audubon had no connection to Mass Audubon’s founding. Yet, we are bound to him and his legacy as a slaveholder, which this article speaks to.

We at Mass Audubon believe nature and the outdoors are for everyone. As part of our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, we, along with National Audubon Society and other independent Audubon Societies, are embarking on our own historical reckoning, fully examining our history, including our role in maintaining inequity. We will be sharing what we learn in the weeks and months ahead.