Former Slave Louden Nelson and the Building Named After Him

Louden Nelson was born on May 5, 1800 and lived in North Carolina as a slave working the cotton fields. His owner Matthew Nelson moved to California during the Gold Rush and took Louden Nelson to have him work in the gold mines. Shortly afterwards, Louden Nelson earned enough income from the Gold mines to purchase his freedom and moved to Santa Cruz, California.

While Louden Nelson was a freeman, he did not attain fanfare from the locals he was around, a resentment which continued even after his death, In fact, an article in, “The Santa Cruz Surf” insulted Louden Nelson by calling him, “Nigger Nelson A Lofty Lesson From a Lowly Life”. The article continues by exclaiming that it’s, “The Story Of an Every Day Darkey Who Turned His Watermillions Into Dollars for the White Pickaninnies”.

It is ironic that Arthur A. Taylor, the founder and editor of The Santa Cruz Surf paper, which had published racist articles insulting Louden Nelson, is buried merely a few feet away from Louden Nelson’s grave within the Evergreen Cemetery of Santa Cruz.

Within London Nelson’s last will and testament, he provided that his property be donated to the schoolhouse in Santa Cruz.

For Louden Nelson’s act of goodwill towards the education of future generations of children, the City Of Santa Cruz honored him by renaming their community center in the 1970’s.

It’s a fitting tribute, since the community center was a former schoolhouse that was built in 1930.

In present day, one can see many photographs, exhibits and newspaper clippings related to Louden Nelson within the walls and the binders in the building. In 2018, a mural was erected on the wall of the building promoting the vision of equality for freemen. The theme of the mural is, “Unify. Decolonize. Thrive”.

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