Dr. Timothy E. Nelson was born in South Central Los Angeles, raised in Compton, California during the early 1990s, and went to Santa Monica Community College in the wake of race and class-based conflict with the Los Angeles Police Department. Constantly in search of opportunity, Dr. Nelson played football at Compton High School, Compton Community College, and Santa Monica College before transferring to New Mexico State University, where he was awarded a scholarship. He graduated from New Mexico State University with a Bachelor’s degree in U.S. History. Continuing to maintain ties with Compton, Dr. Nelson set up an admissions program to bring high schoolers from Compton to New Mexico State University.
During his time completing a Master’s degree in Black History at the University of Northern Iowa, Dr. Nelson also earned a commission as an Officer in the U.S. Army. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at El Paso. He was the Racial Justice Director at the YWCA El Paso del Norte Region—the largest YWCA in the United States. He is also a proud charter member of his chapter of Phi Beta Sigma, whose motto is “Culture For Service and Service For Humanity.”
Dr. Nelson’s multi-faceted work concerns ambition and the search for opportunity. Dr. Nelson’s dissertation, “The Significance of the Afro-Frontier™ in American History: Blackdom, Bawdyhouses, and Barratry in the Borderlands, 1900-1930,” addresses and unpacks foundational issues in African American history, the history of the U.S. West, borderlands history, and the history of African diasporas. Dr. Nelson created his own school of thought and coined the term Afro-Frontier™ (along with Afro-Frontierism™ and Afro-Frontierist™), changing how the history of Blackdom, New Mexico has been framed. Instead of a story of a failed township made up of black people fleeing racial violence, lynching, and second-class citizenship, he found that the Blackdomites left the South to seek out opportunities and freedom in the creation of “autonomous Black communities.” Following their economic and social ambitions, Black people sought out literal and figurative spaces of freedom that afforded them the opportunity to develop their skills, aspirations, and dreams.
Through his 2015 dissertation as well as his current outreach, Dr. Nelson’s goal is uncovering and advocating for untold stories through various forms of art; academic books, trade books, screenplays, painting, photography, videography, and digitally applying his theory of colonization within the digital frontier.
First Academic Book - Blackdom, New Mexico: The Significance of the Afro-Frontier 1900-1930
“Blackdom” started as an inherited idea of 19th Century Afrotopia. The idea of “Blackdom” was refined within Black institutions as part of the perpetual movement of Black Colonization. In 1903, thirteen Black men, encouraged by the 1896 Plessy decision, formed the Blackdom Townsite Company, and set out to make Blackdom a real place in New Mexico, where they were outside the reach of Jim Crow laws.
Blackdom, New Mexico was a township scheme that lasted about 30 years. Many believed that Blackdom was simply abandoned. However, new evidence shows that the scheme to build generational wealth continued to exist throughout the 20th century in other forms. During Blackdom’s Boomtimes, in December of 1919, Blackdom Oil Company shifted town business from a regenerative agricultural community to a more extractive model. Timothy E. Nelson has uncovered new primary source materials that shapes Blackdom’s newly discovered 3rd decade.
This story has never been fully told or contextualized until now. In Blackdom, New Mexico, Timothy E. Nelson situates the story where it belongs, along the continuum of settlement in Mexico’s Northern Frontier. Dr. Nelson illuminates a set of conscious efforts that helped develop Blackdom Township into a frontier boom town. Reoriented to Mexico’s “northern frontier,” one observes Black ministers, Black military personnel, and Black freemasons who colonized as part of the transmogrification of Indigenous spaces into the American West.
Nelson’s concept of the Afro-Frontier evokes a “Turnerian West,” but it is also fruitfully understood as a Weberian “Borderland.” Its history also highlights a brief period that allowed one to study a space that nurtured Black cowboy culture. While Blackdom’s civic presence was not lengthy, its significance, and that of the Afro-Frontier, is an important window in the history of Afrotopias, Black Consciousness and the notion of an American West.
Dissertation: The Significance of the Afro-Frontier in American History Blackdom, Barratry, and Bawdyhouses in the Borderlands 1900 – 19302015
Awards and Recognition
- Dr. Nelson has been recognized by the Western History Association, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Great Plains Studies as the expert historian of the all-black incorporated town Blackdom, New Mexico established 1903.
Press and Media Mentions
- Passionate about the significance of the Afro-Frontier in American history, Dr. Timothy E. Nelson uncovers the forgotten history of New Mexico’s Blackdom. New Mexico PBS ¡Colores!
- EL PALACIO The Magazine of the Museum of New Mexico 2021 > Spring 2021 > Blackdom in the Borderlands Blackdom in the Borderlands Significance of the Afro-Frontier (1903-1929) BY DR. TIMOTHY E. NELSON, HISTORIAN AND ARTIST
- “An online seminar hosted by the New Mexico Humanities Council (NMHC) on the historical township Blackdom on Feb. 23 attracted 87 participants. The audience was able to learn about the latest research and insights into the cultural and historical significance of the township of Blackdom, founded in 1903, 18 miles south of Roswell and 8 miles west of Dexter. By the mid-1920s, most residents had left, turning Blackdom into a ghost town." Bethany Tabor, NMHC program officer, served as the moderator. She introduced the speakers, which included Janice Dunnahoo of the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico (HSSNM) Archives in Roswell. Dunnahoo is a contributing author for the West Texas Historical Association, Wild West Journal, True West Magazine, Texas-New Mexico Border Archives Journal, and a weekly contributor to the Roswell Daily Record.”
- University of Northern Iowa alum Timothy E. Nelson gives students and staff a history of the town of Blackdom, N.M. during an Oct. 15 zoom session.
- Santa Fe New Mexican Robert Nott interviews Timothy E. Nelson Boyer was born free into a family of slaves and, after earning a college education, became an educator. Many historians have said his father, Henry Boyer, worked as a wagoner on expeditions along the Old Santa Fe Trail in the 1840s and thus urged his son to head to New Mexico to start his black utopia. But Frank Boyer told the El Paso Herald in a 1947 interview that he had served as a Buffalo Soldier in the United States Army for five years in Arizona and New Mexico before he returned to Georgia for a time. Author email“They called it Blackdom for a reason. This was a black kingdom where sovereigns lived.” —Timothy E. Nelson