History of Allensworth, CA
was created to provide Afro-Americans an
opportunity to develop a town that was free of
discrimination. Its emphasis was the development
of a community that was governed, financed and
operated by Afro-Americans.
Following reconstruction in the late 1800's,
many black/Afro-American institutions were being
created. As many people started to migrate to
the Los Angeles area, they discovered the same
vestiges of discrimination thought to have been
Upon retirement from military service, Colonel
and Mrs. Allensworth resided in Los Angeles
(near 30th & Hoover). As discussions to created
a town became serious, thus a group was
developed called the California Colony and
Home Promoting Association. The Colonel was
named president and in August 3, 1908 the
official filling with Tulare County took place.
In addition to Colonel Allensworth, other
leaders of the organization were Professor
William Payne, John W. Palmer (miner) , William
Peck (minister from First A.M.E.) and Harry
Mitchell (real estate professional). There were
numerous individuals responsible for the town
development as it became a thriving and
successful place. It dispelled the myth that
"colored citizens" could not develop a
successful town, as well as govern themselves in
a peaceful setting.
Why the Colonel
The Colonel was a well-known
figure, and not just among Afro-Americans. The
success of any venture is contingent of having a
known spokesperson. Through his reputation, when
a call was made that Allensworth was being
created many people were motivated to join. As a
matter of fact, many people purchased property
in Allensworth "sight-unseen" because of the
faith of the Colonel and the notion of
Afro-American freedom. This is an important fact
as many families inherited property from their
ancestors who purchased property in Allensworth,
and who never lived there.
Documentation supports Allensworth was a
township. This is important because at first
glimpse Allensworth seems like many rural
developments with a few home scattered here and
there. Keeping the projected growth of the town
in perspective, the founders needed land the
accommodate their vision. In specific terms, a
township is the equivalent of approximately
A key person responsible for the marketing of
Allensworth was Oscar Overr, who also held the
distinction of owing the most property. Overr
was remarkable as part of his strategy was to
showcase to new settlers how they could use the
land to benefit them financially and sustain a
living. Farming was a critical business
component of Allensworth so it is not surprising
of the building makeup when you visit
Allensworth State Historic Park today (i.e.,
train stop, hotel, general store, bakery, etc.).
Allensworth literally outgrew itself and as
water and other resources were needed to
continue development of the town, suppliers grew
reluctant as what started as a "wild dream" was
quickly turning into factual evidence of what
determined people could achieve.
Of historical importance, the Colonel had a very
successful friendship with Booker T. Washington
and as Tuskegee was being developed there was
much discussion of Allensworth being the
Tuskegee of the West. Also, while there were
many successful Afro-Americans who migrated to
California in the early 1900's, the fact that
Allensworth was an official and recognized town,
attributed to many town people becoming the
"first Afro-American in California" to hold
As Allensworth developed, the Colonel's death
was perhaps the most significant blow to its.
Following the inability to obtain sufficient
water, many people left Allensworth in the 20's.
Nevertheless, there was enough people who
remained to keep Allensworth operating.
Transforming itself into a migration community,
Allensworth lived on throughout the years -
30's, 40's, 50's, although without the glitter
of its historic founding.
The school house which is part of the State
Historic Park (CASHP) was operable until 1972.
This and other tidbits came out as history due
to the many, and we do mean many, who were not
famous, yet who lived in Allensworth over the
years as regular folk - who shared their
"Allensworth version" and gave credibility to
what we have labeled Allensworth today,
"The Town that Refuses to Die."
editorial note - there are many interpretations to the
Allensworth creation and development. This version is our
interpretation as supported by various documentation.
Additionally, as you explore the Allensworth history, migration
history, California history, reconstruction history, etc. you
gain a better frame of why/how Allensworth's place in history
will be eternal. Throughout the United States there where/are
many Allensworth's, but few to have the organizational structure
to be classified as mainstream.
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