Rosa Mae Nelson
(1925 — 2018)


As remembered by Penny Patch
February 8, 2018

Mrs Rosa Mae Nelson passed away this morning. She was 93 and had broken her leg falling some weeks ago. She was not famous in the movement years, except in her immediate family and in her community, nor was she famous later in life. But she was beloved and deeply respected. Mrs Nelson and her husband Roland Nelson were movement leaders on the Hays Plantation in Panola County, MS where they sharecropped, and subsequently led the campaign to get people to register to vote, as well as to elect Black people to the Federal Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Services (ASCS) committee.

Chris Williams and I (and other SNCC/COFO folks) worked on those campaigns and often visited the Nelsons where meetings were held (usually at night) on that plantation. Mr Nelson was of course the more identified leader. Mrs Nelson took care of six children, took care of us, and organized the women. Her daughter, Ruth Nelson Longstreet Lee, at age 10, integrated the Panola County schools with her young brothers. Ruth describes fighting back when she and her brothers were attacked on the school bus, and it worked. So much for nonviolence.

I was blessed to be in touch mostly by phone with Mrs Rosa Nelson over many decades. Her lioness heart, her sharp mind, and sense of humor strengthened me as she did so many.

Penny Patch
SNCC 1962-1965


As remembered by David "Dave" Dennis
February 8, 2018


Thanks for remembering and sharing. So many people, like Mr. and Mrs. Nelson, stood up and took heroic positions in the movement and protected us and showed us how to do it. They were there before SNCC, CORE and SCLC and were there when everyone else. The world need to know these people and the roles they played. We need to share these stories. I hope that more veterans of the Civil Rights Movement remember and share the stories of the unrecognized veterans.

Again, thanks.



As remembered by Joyce Ladner

She was the footsoldier on whose back the movement was carried. ¡Presente!


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