Allen Allensworth was given birth to in Louisville, Kentucky, on April 7, 1842, within the slavery system of the antebellum South. At the behest of his mother Phyllis, he learned to read from their master’s son. It was discovered and Allensworth was sent to a Quaker household, eventually sold through the Louisville estate in the mid-1850s.
In the course of his teens he ran away twice because of the brutal conditions of the next plantation he was kept at, after which was sold to Fred Scruggs, who meant to train Allensworth to become a jockey. With the Civil War underway and Northern forces getting into Kentucky, Allensworth runaway and made his way to Union forces, working as a nursing assistant and then entering the Navy, serving until 1865.
Becomes Military Chaplain
Allensworth next opened up two restaurants in St. Louis, Missouri, together with his brother and studied at the Baptist Theological School in Nashville, Tennessee, becoming a minister at the start of the 1870s. After twice serving as a Republican National Convention delegate, Allensworth reached out to governmental authorities in hopes of being made a military chaplain. He succeeded and was appointed on April 1, 1886, to the 24th Infantry in Oklahoma, an African-American “Buffalo Soldier” regiment in which he served for two decades.
Allensworth also wed educator and musician Josephine Leavell in 1887, with the couple going on to have two daughters.
Along with his faith based responsibilities, Allensworth synchronised groundbreaking academic programs for his constituency and was later on sent overseas to the Philippines. After his return to the states, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel by the time of his retirement in 1906, becoming the top ranked African-American officer of the day.
Founds Town of Allensworth
Allensworth subsequently lectured nationally on African-American uplift in the vein of Tuskegee Institute founder Booker T. Washington. In 1908, he and several other community leaders set up the California Colony and Home Promotion Association to found the town of Allensworth, located in Tulare County in the state’s Central Valley. Allensworth grew to become the first all-African-American township in California founded and funded by black citizens, with the goal for its denizens to live free of the prejudice and violence encountered in other parts of the U.S.
The town at one point had the ability to house a minimum of several dozen residents and offer an active civic and social life. But it experienced major problems without any follow-through from the Pacific Farming Company over pledged water allotments and the Santa Fe Railroad’s decision to provide no stop at Allensworth.
Allen Allensworth died on September 14, 1914, after becoming struck by a motorcycle when getting off a streetcar in Los Angeles, on his way to a speaking engagement, with ongoing speculation on whether or not the incident was an accident or intentional.
The town of Allensworth, though it was gradually abandoned, was declared a state historic park in 1974, with much of its edifices renewed and renovated.
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The untold story of California’s only African American town Imagine you were a young black man, the son of slaves, living in a Northern city around 1910, struggling to build a better life for your family.
Born a slave and self-educated Allensworth ran off and joined the Union Army.