Vol 84, No 1 (2023)


Cover Page

This month’s cover features a portrait of Louisa Nelson taken in 1893. Born an enslaved person around 1820, Nelson came to Richmond, Virginia, with her third husband, Jeremiah Nelson, after the Civil War. Following his death, she became a nurse to the prominent Cabell family’s three young sons, James, Robert, and John. She would live with the family for 25 years, until her death in 1904.

Louisa Nelson was a remarkable woman whose life bridged both time and cultures. It is clear from Cabell’s accounts and from her obituaries that she was held in great esteem and affection by both the white and black communities. Indeed, it was a mark of her status that she was addressed by the Cabells as “Mrs. Nelson” (not the more familiar “Louisa”), and by those in the African American community as “Sister Nelson.”"

James Branch Cabell became a nationally known author of fantasy fiction and, later, namesake for the academic library at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). The image of Nelson is part of VCU’s James Branch Cabell collection and appears online in James Branch Cabell: Man of Letters and Libraries. For more information, visit http://go.vcu.edu/aboutcabell.