Nelson Lowell Stevens, Jr., a prominent artist and educator who spent years teaching in the W.E.B Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, died over the weekend. He was 84 years old.
Stevens was celebrated for his focus on African American culture, particularly jazz. From 1962 to 1966, he was an art instructor in the Cleveland Public Schools, and during that time regularly went to the Jazz Temple where he heard famous musicians such as John Coltrane. Over the years, he developed close friendships with musicians Max Roach and Archie Shepp, who were also on the faculty at UMass.
“My dad was a giant. I am so deeply proud of him and his accomplishments and I feel fortunate to have been his daughter,” said Nadya Stevens. “I am finding comfort in the love that we shared. But right now, I am absolutely shattered, one hundred tiny pieces.”
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that charitable donations be made in Steven’s name to the National Black Arts Festival.