Humanities Magazine – Spring 2023 Issue
Audubon in This Day and Age
The artist and his birds continue to challenge us
John James Audubon, dead for 172 years, has been in the news again. Disturbing facts known to his biographers—that, for example, when he kept a store in Henderson, Kentucky, he enslaved people—have gained new currency, although the National Audubon Society has, for now, held on to its name. For many, Audubon has become synonymous with an activity—call it science, ornithology, natural history, birding, love of the outdoors—that has, for the longest time, excluded people of color.
A Lot of What Is Known about Pirates Is Not True, and a Lot of What Is True Is Not Known.
In 1701, in Middletown, New Jersey, Moses Butterworth languished in a jail, accused of piracy. Like many young men based in England or her colonies, he had joined a crew that sailed the Indian Ocean intent on plundering ships of the Muslim Mughal Empire. Throughout the 1690s, these pirates marauded vessels laden with gold, jewels, silk, and calico on pilgrimage toward Mecca. After achieving great success, many of these men sailed back into the Atlantic via Madagascar to the North American seaboard, where they quietly disembarked in Charleston, Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York City, Newport, and Boston, and made themselves at home.