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Arbor Day Foundation Statement on J. Sterling Morton

date 06/30/20

For more information, contact

Jeff Salem, Director of Communications & Public Relations,   email

J. Sterling Morton, the man who developed the idea for the Arbor Day holiday, was a vocal anti-abolitionist who held deeply flawed beliefs regarding race and slavery. The Arbor Day Foundation condemns those beliefs.

We have long embraced diversity and inclusion as core organizational values and know that upholding these ideals takes conscious and continuous work. Confronting Morton's history, which is inextricably linked to our organization, is an important aspect of that work. We regret not condemning Morton's racist views earlier and we commit to addressing this issue with transparency moving forward. Our first step is to evaluate how to best offer an honest and uncompromising portrayal of Morton's history and how it intersects with that of the Arbor Day holiday, Nebraska City, and Nebraska.

In the past we have attributed the spirit of Arbor Day to Morton, but it truthfully belongs to the Nebraskans who have embraced the tree planting tradition for generations and people around the world who know that a greener world is healthier, more beautiful, and more equitable. By shedding light on and learning from past mistakes, we aim to build a legacy that is proactively reflective of our values and inclusive of all those who have contributed to the tree planting movement.


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