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First Person

Juanita Nelson

portrait of Juanita in big white hat

“I am concerned to strive for a coherent, integrated life…”

Even as a teenager Juanita Nelson followed her convictions. She remembers being 16 years old and traveling to Georgia on a segregated train. She protested by taking a seat in each car that was reserved for white people. As a result of this decision and others like it, Juanita is considered a pioneering civil rights activist. More accurately, she has pursued a life-long commitment to her belief in nonviolence. Throughout her life, this promise has guided her choices. She and life-partner Wally Nelson actively participated in organizations dedicated to peace and equality. They became war tax resisters. They traveled south to live in an intentional Christian community. Eventually, they became homesteaders with self-sufficiency as their goal. Juanita explains that “by simplifying my needs and by living more nearly within the bounds of my own productivity, I hope to reduce my exploitation of the earth and its inhabitants.”

View a timeline of Juanita Nelson's life

Juanita Nelson's Stories

jim crow housing - cabin with the words colored only painted on roof


Civil rights actions as a teenager and young adult

black and white photo of Juanita and Wally in their 20s


Juanita meets Wally Nelson: World War II, Civilian Public Service camps and a commitment to nonviolence

workers in farm field


Life at Koinonia Farm, an intentional Christian community located in southwest Georgia

Wally and Juanita in vegetable garden

1970 to Present

Self-sufficiency as social activism: homesteading in New Mexico and western Massachusetts

Listen to Juanita Nelson's full interview.

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