Mass Audubon Confronts Legacy Of Its Namesake As Nation Reckons With Race

A sparrow flies away from a bird feeder after eating at the Audubon Boston Nature Center in Mattapan. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Boston Nature Center in Mattapan offers a home to more than 150 species of birds. And a winter afternoon offers up evidence of a few of them: Three-toed footprints of wild turkeys dot snowy paths like small dinosaur tracks; and in the leafless trees, robins and white-throated sparrows chirp as they flit from branch to branch.

The Mattapan sanctuary has been around since the late 1990s, but Mass Audubon itself is more than 100 years old and now owns nearly 40,000 acres of land throughout the state.

The society gets its name from renowned conservationist and naturalist John James Audubon, who was famous for his vivid paintings of American birds.

But Mass Audubon president David O’Neill says the society is now grappling with another piece of its namesake’s story.

“He was a slaveholder,” says O’Neill. “That’s clear. He was also a racist.”

Read the rest of the story at WBUR’s website.