Sometimes taking a risk requires faith. Born as a slave, Allen Allensworth worked for different families and in many positions. Allensworth finally took a leap of faith to run away and join the military by disguising himself and walking away from his master during the Civil War.
His life was forever changed by his military career. He started working as a civilian nursing aide. He would later enlist as a freedman in the Navy. After the war Allensworth became interested in politics; he would be selected as Kentucky’s only black delegate to the Republican National Convention. In 1866 Allensworth gained support from both sides of the aisle and was appointed as a chaplain in the U.S. Army, assigned to the 24th Infantry Regiment known as the Buffalo Soldiers. He retired from military life in 1906 having gained the rank of lieutenant colonel, the first African American to achieve that rank.
Leaving the East Coast, Colonel Allensworth moved with his family to Los Angeles. There he was inspired to establish a self-sufficient, all black California community.
In August 1908 Colonel Allen Allensworth and four other settlers established a town founded, financed and governed by African Americans in Tulare County. 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. Later the colony would turn into the town of Allensworth just 30 miles north of Bakersfield.
In 1974, California State Parks purchased land within the historical town site 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. While Colonel Allensworth is gone, his town can still be visited today.
Check out Allensworth State Historic Park to find out more about his story.