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William T. Hornaday Award -- Why the change

BSA made another decision without discussing it with the Volunteers or Scouts. I watched a video from BSA that mentioned the change and it hinted that some disturbing things were found out about the namesake. I’d like BSA to have the courage to tell what was found and who made the decision to change it. Its not that I’m upset at the name change…I’m bothered by BSA making these changes, like the new unwarranted diversity training, rank, and MB changes.

This part from his Wikipedia page may be your answer:

Racism at the Zoo[edit]

Dr. Hornaday’s tenure as director of the New York zoo met with controversy in September 1906, when Ota Benga, a pygmy native of the Congo, was placed on display in the monkey house. Benga shot targets with a bow and arrow, wove twine, and wrestled with an orangutan. Although, according to the New York Times , “few expressed audible objection to the sight of a human being in a cage with monkeys as companions”, black clergymen in the city took great offense. “Our race, we think, is depressed enough, without exhibiting one of us with the apes,” said the Reverend James H. Gordon, superintendent of the Howard Colored Orphan Asylum in Brooklyn. “We think we are worthy of being considered human beings, with souls.”[8]

New York Mayor George B. McClellan, Jr. refused to meet with the clergymen, drawing the praise of Dr. Hornaday, who wrote to him: “When the history of the Zoological Park is written, this incident will form its most amusing passage.”[8]

As the controversy continued, Hornaday remained unapologetic, insisting that his only intention was to put on an “ethnological exhibit”. In another letter he said that he and Madison Grant, the secretary of the New York Zoological Society, who ten years later would publish the racist tract “The Passing of the Great Race”, considered it “imperative that the society should not even seem to be dictated to” by the black clergymen.[8]

Still, Hornaday decided to close the exhibit after just two days, and on Monday, September 8, Benga could be found walking the zoo grounds, often followed by a crowd “howling, jeering and yelling”.[8] Benga committed suicide in 1916 when his return trip to the Congo was delayed by World War I.

Influence on Scouting[edit]

Further information: William T. Hornaday Awards

Hornaday had a large impact on the Scouting movement and especially the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Not only is there is a series of conservation awards named after him, but his beliefs and writings are a major reason conservation and ecology have long been an important part of the BSA’s program.[18] This awards program was created in 1915 by Dr. Hornaday. He named the award the Wildlife Protection Medal. Its purpose was to challenge Americans to work constructively for wildlife conservation and habitat protection. After his death in 1938, the award was renamed in Dr. Hornaday’s honor and became a BSA award. In October 2020 the BSA changed the name of the award to the BSA Distinguished Conservation Service Award as they felt that Hornaday’s values “that go against the BSA’s values, and we determined that, given this information, the conservation award should no longer bear his name in order to uphold our commitment against racism and discrimination.”

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Thank you for the article. Perhaps we should just do away with badge all together. Just erase it. Social justice and all.

Yes, and let’s throw the baby out with the bathwater as well.


I’m ok with doing away with the badge. it was founded by Hornady and since BSA decided he didn’t represent current values, then BSA should consider doing away with the badge…not just changing the name a second time.

The badge is somewhat restructured. If I understand it, they got rid of the 3 of the 5 awards - no longer is there a local adult award, unit award, or the “just a certificate” award for Scouts.

So, like the name, it is new.

Or retire it and create a new one. That would be cleaner and is essentially what they are doing in a very messy fashion.

That is what they are doing. Good point. It should have been cleaner.

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