Audubon Supports Asheville Chapter Name Change from Slave Owner Namesake

Statements from Audubon North Carolina's executive director and Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society's president.

Statement from Audubon North Carolina Executive Director Andrew Hutson:

“The outdoors and the joy of birds should be experienced and enjoyed by all people. That’s a core part of our mission at Audubon North Carolina, but Black Birders Week and the unrest of the current moment have shown us just how much work we have in front of us to make it a reality. We fully support the leaders of our affiliate chapter in Asheville as they begin the process of changing the organization’s name to make it a more welcoming place for birders of color, especially Black birders. This is just one step in the work of making the birding community more inclusive, but it’s an important one.”

Statement from Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society President Nancy Casey:

"Black Birders Week has highlighted the beautiful diversity of the birding community, but also the racism Black birders face when it comes to enjoying the birds we all love. The name of our Audubon chapter should not add to that list of prejudices. 

Established in 1986, the Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society took its name from Elisha Mitchell, an early conservationist. Some of our chapter’s earliest work involved our volunteer ties to Mt. Mitchell State Park. Elisha Mitchell was a slave owner. He also published a book defending slavery.  

Today we began the process of changing our chapter name. The change is not about erasing history but about acknowledging how our country’s history of racial injustice impacts people today. Our chapter is committed to making the outdoors and the joy of birds safe and welcoming for all people. Last year, we established a committee to embrace the goals of equity, diversity and inclusion. We’re committed to doing the hard work of putting equity and environmental justice at the forefront of our conservation efforts. We look forward to growing our chapter to better reflect the diversity of our community."