After slavery African Americans took their skills and begin to build thriving cities. Blacks in California were no different.
In 1908, African Americans in California built a flourishing town called Allensworth, an accomplishment seldom taught or discussed. Colonel Allen Allensworth, founded the community in a rural area in Tulare County 30 miles north of Bakersfield.
The town served as a depot station on the Santa Fe Railroad line from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The soil was fertile and the water seemingly abundant, according to history.net.com.
Within a year, 35 families were residing in the town and by 1912 the population grew to 100. Alwortha Hall was the first baby born in the town. The settlement had two general stores, a post office and comfortable homes. A school was built that also served as the center for the towns social and political activities. The public library held more than a 1,000 book.
Between 1912-1915 Allensworth generated nearly $5,000 monthly from their business ventures. Their voting registration records listed an array of occupations from colonists, farmers, storekeepers, carpenters, nurses and more.
Allensworths grain ware- houses, cattle pens and large poultry farms served the needs of the community and the railroad post. It had a 10- room hotel at 75 cents per night that included a restaurant. A cement manufacturing enterprise, plaster and carpen- try shops. The town also produced sugar beets. These successes was a way to prove to the White establishment that Black people were capable of self-determination and self-respect, said the article.
Allensworth became a member of the county school district and a voting precinct that elected Oscar Overr the first African-American justice of the peace in post-Mexican California.
The town consisted of 900 acres. It provided youth ser- vices such as: the Owl Club, the campfire Girls, the Girls Glee Club, and the Children’s Saving Association. The Glee Club became internationally known singing at various little White towns throughout the nation.
Colonel Allensworth lobbied the California State Legislature for an education- al institution for the town similar to Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Allensworth envisioned a training and technical school for black youths in California and the Southwest. The town was on its way to becoming one of the greatest Black cities in the U.S. if not the world. But the school bill fail due to op- position from other Blacks in Los Angeles and San Francisco, who believed that a Tuskegee-like institution would reinforce educational and residential segregation.
The town began to face several more crises that led to its eventual decline. The Santa Fe Railroad never supported the Black community through hiring for the rail line, according to the article. The company built another line to neighboring Alpaugh allowing most rail traffic to bypass Allensworth. The railroad company also refused to change the rail line name from Solito/Solita to Allensworth. These act deprived the town of the lucrative carrying trade.
The death of Colonel Allensworth sealed the fate of the town. In 1914, Colonel Allensworth was ran over by two White youths on a speeding motorcycle. He died the next morning. Without.
His spiritual guidance and leadership, the community disintegrated. By 1920, the lure of jobs in Oakland further decimated the town’s population. But the colonel’s dream did not die. In 1976, the state had acquired the land and the Department of Parks and Recreation developed a state historic site.
While Allensworth existed less than 20 years it provided an opportunity for Black men and women to transcend race-based limits and thus control their own destinies.