In 1903, thirteen Black men, encouraged by the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision, set out and formed the Blackdom Townsite Company. Their goal was to bring to fruition an idea that had been germinating in the nineteenth century: Afrotopia.
These western pioneers endeavored to make Blackdom a real place in New Mexico, where they were outside the reach of Jim Crow laws. The settlement lasted about thirty years.
Many believed that Blackdom was simply abandoned. However, author Timothy E. Nelson provides evidence that shows that the scheme to build generational wealth continued to exist throughout the twentieth century in other forms. Nelson has uncovered new primary source materials and a story that has never been fully told or contextualized until now.
This is a story that belongs in our understanding of western settlement, and these figures who spearheaded the Blackdom venture belong in our canon of American pioneers.
You can read more about Dr. Nelson’s work in Axios and the Santa Fe Reporter. More information can be found on the Blackdom Website. To celebrate the book’s release, you can read an exclusive excerpt below.
Blackdom was a real place. I have to make this fact clear because my brother Maison Nelson thought I made it up. No lie. Maison (pronounced May Sawn) recorded my doctoral graduation on December 10, 2015. He flew all the way from the Air Force base where he was stationed in Las Vegas, Nevada, to El Paso, Texas. He took pictures of me holding my University of Texas at El Paso mock diploma (a degree in Borderland History with subfield expertise in African Diasporic Studies and US History). Yet, after my not seeing him for about five years, Maison’s question was, “When you gon’ make some money?”
In 2019, I accepted a seat on a panel at the national conference for the Western History Association in Las Vegas, Nevada, held at the Westgate Vegas Resort & Casino, near the Vegas Strip. Dr. Kenneth Hamilton was on the panel, and I could not pass up the chance to meet him in person. Unknown to Dr. Hamilton, he had become an intellectual father to the Blackdom Thesis and an all-around icon for me. Maison drove from his house in the Northside of Vegas to meet me at the conference. At first sight, again, “When you gon’ make some money?” Forgive me for belaboring the point, but Blackdom was a real place. Audible to the people sitting around Maison in the conference room of my panel, he said, “Oh. I thought he made that up.”–Blackdom, New Mexico by Dr. Timothy E. Nelson.