Audubon’s achievements and flaws part of history

We all know that John Audubon had lamentable views on race, but virtually every figure in history has some view or behavior that will trigger someone’s purity test and fail our current view of morality (“Birders struggle with legacy, name of Audubon,” The Herald, May 20). So will your friends if you dig deep enough. Are we to tear down every picture, statue, and memorial name that does not meet the ruling elite’s views of perfection? Given that the ruling elite changes every election, there will be nothing left.

Simon Schama wrote a beautiful documentary called “The History of Britain.” At the conclusion he said that history was written not to revere the dead, but to inspire the living, to lament the lamentable and to celebrate what ought to be celebrated. With that in mind let us celebrate what Audubon did for natural history and conservation while lamenting what he did wrong with his slaves and general prejudice. The alternative is to banish great lessons and inspiration from Nelson Mandela, Theodore Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony, Abraham Lincoln, Elanor Roosevelt, and other great and consequential people. They weren’t perfect either, but I don’t ask them to be.

Ralph Semmes Jackson III


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