My Contribution: I was a state worker who led organizations for racial justice and equity in Reading and Harrisburg. I published The Advocate-Verdict, an important Black newspaper, and edited other newspapers. I directed of religious education at Capital Street Presbyterian Church. I married Alice Dunbar-Nelson, my partner in equity work.
My Legacy: I was a respected journalistic and political voice in central Pennsylvania and the broader mid-Atlantic. My political work with the NAACP and other similar organizations continues to bear fruit today as these organizations continue to thrive.
About Me: “Robert J. Nelson, of this city, was chosen for a third term as president of the Afro-American Republican League of Pennsylvania… He was given the compliment of a re-election by acclamation. Mr. Nelson is a clerk in the Mining Department at Harrisburg and has a side circle of friends.” — Reading Times, June 17, 1904.
Full Name: Robert John Nelson
Birth Date: May 20,1873
Death Date: February 2, 1949
Place of Birth: Reading, Pennsylvania
Race: “Mulatto” (1880 Federal Census), Black (1900 and 1910 Federal Censuses), “Negro” (1930 Federal Census)
Places of Residence: Reading, Pennsylvania: 1048 Cherry Street, 337 ½ North 11th Street, and 340 N. 11th Street; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: 147 Balm Street, Walnut Street, 149 Linden Street, and 600 Forster Street; Wilmington, Delaware.
Connection to the Old Eighth Ward:
Family Members: Resident; involved in civic organizations in Eighth Ward; published Masterpieces of Negro Eloquence with Alice Dunbar-Nelson at 504 N. 4th Street
Education: Reading Public Schools
Occupations: Clerk (Mining Department, Harrisburg). Porter. Messenger. State Athletic Commission member. Editor of Advocate-Verdict, Wilmington Advocate, and Washington Eagle. Publisher of Masterpieces of Negro Eloquence. Real Estate Dealer. Assistant Di- rector of Public Safety (Philadelphia). Acting Fire Marshal (Philadelphia).
Church Membership: Capital Street Presbyterian Church (superintendent of Sunday school).
Activism: Afro-American Republican League of Pennsylvania (president), Colored Professionals and Businessmen (member), Harrisburg NAACP (secretary), Harrisburg People’s Forum (president), Colored People for Independence (director – Wilmington), Mohican Club in Harrisburg, Colored Elks (member). Sued Victoria theatre over segregation in 1913 and won.
Connections: Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson, W. Justin Carter, W. Arthur Carter, Jessie Matthews, James Auter, Cassius M. Brown, and George H. Imes.