Central Station

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Allensworth, CA The Town that Refused to Die

As a follow up to my interview with PCL resident Charles Allensworth, her eis some background information on his great great great uncle, Lt. Colonel Allen Allensworth and the historic town of Allensworth Ca that he established.

Lt. Colonel Allen Allensworth (7 April 1842 – 14 September 1914) was an American soldier in the United States Army. He was the highest ranking African American commissioned officer in the United States military at his retirement in 1906, and is remembered as the founder of the all-black township of Allensworth, California, now Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park.

Born into slavery in Louisville, Kentucky, Allensworth educated himself illegally; he ran off and joined the army, eventually becoming one of the Army's first Black chaplains. He obtained a teacher's certificate, and was stationed at Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.
Upon leaving military service, Allensworth and his family settled in Los Angeles. It was there that he was inspired with the idea of establishing a self-sufficient, all-black California community where African Americans could live their lives free of the racial discrimination.

In August 1908 Colonel Allen Allensworth and four other settlers established a town founded, financed and governed by African Americans. Their dream of developing an abundant and thriving community stemmed directly from a strong belief in programs that allowed blacks to help themselves create better lives. By 1910 Allensworth’s success was the focus of many national newspaper articles praising the town and its inhabitants.

An unavoidable set of circumstances(drought, arsenic in the water) made it impossible for the residents of this tiny town located 30 miles north of Bakersfield to achieve their founders’ dreams over the long term. But the town did remain home to a handful of families and individuals throughout the 20th century, and true to the courage and resolve of its founders, the town has survived and persevered, earning the well-deserved title “The town that refused to die.”

In 1974 California State Parks purchased land within the historical townsite of Allensworth, and it became Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park. Today a collection of lovingly restored and reconstructed early 20th-century buildings—including the Colonel’s house, historic schoolhouse, Baptist church, and library—once again dots this flat farm country, giving new life to the dreams of these visionary pioneers.

With continuing restoration and special events(attended annually by Charles), the town is coming back to life as a state historic park. The park’s visitor center features a film about the site. A yearly rededication ceremony reaffirms the vision of the pioneers. Allensworth is the only California community to be founded, financed and governed by African Americans.

Text is from California State Parks website on Colonel Allensworth State Park and Wikipedia

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