Charlotte Mathews-Nelson describes her decades of activism with an air of inevitability. She grew up volunteering with the NAACP. She helped usher in equitable practices in the development of Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood. She reactivated the college chapter of the NAACP here at Northeastern. What else was there to do?
Mathews-Nelson began volunteering with the NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, in the 1960s, moving north in the 1970s and serving in various administrative positions throughout several New England chapters. In the 1990s, Mathews-Nelson was elected the New England Area Conference president for five consecutive terms, overseeing NAACP branches in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. She currently serves as an advisor to the organization.
In 1979, she started working at Northeastern, where she also earned her bachelor’s degree, and now serves as the employer relations coordinator. Closing in on 40 years with the university, Mathews-Nelson has served on several university-wide governing bodies, including the Commission on the Status of Women at Northeastern and the Affirmative Action Council, and she’s the former president of Northeastern’s Black Faculty and Staff Association.
Her activism doesn’t stop there. Mathews-Nelson has been deeply ingrained in fixing some of Boston’s inequity as well. She served on the Greater Boston Civil Rights Coalition, the Governor’s Hate Crime Commission, and the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on Youth and Urban Violence. Currently, she’s a member of the Roxbury Strategic Master Plan Oversight Committee, a mayoral-appointed body that represents the needs of the Roxbury community in the development of seven parcels of public land.
The roster of Mathews-Nelson’s service goes on. Throughout all of it, though, she says her most gratifying work has come from working with youth.