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Black History Fact of the Week: Allensworth


June 30 marks the 102nd anniversary of the establishment of the town of Allensworth.

It was founded in 1908 by Lt. Col. Allen Allensworth with the help of several other African Americans. The small town rests in an unincorporated area of Tulare County in Central California.

Allensworth was born into slavery April 7, 1842, in Louisville, Ky. Determined to make a better life for himself and others, he secretly educated himself and eventually ran off to join the Army. He became one of the Army’s first Black chaplains, and before retiring in 1906 he became the military’s highest-ranking African American.

After leaving the service, he and his family settled in Los Angeles, where his vision of establishing an all-Black self-sufficient community was spawned. In 1908, he made his dream a reality and established the historical town.

Soon Black settlers made their way west and built homes, a church, a school, and laid streets in what was first called a colony. The town was so harmonious that Allensworth did not see the need for a jail.

It grew into a town with a voice in California politics and elected the first African American justice of the peace in post-Mexico California.

For years, the town flourished, but shortly after Allensworth’s death in 1914 the population began to dissipate.

It also endured other challenges such as the dry, infertile soil, which made farming difficult and the arsenic, which began to pollute the drinking water.

Despite the town’s rapid rise and slow decay, it’s history is preserved by a faithful few whose families helped build the community. It is now a state park, where celebrations and tours take place, including an annual Juneteenth celebration.

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