Just north of Bakersfield is the only town in California to have been founded and governed solely by African-Americans.
Established in 1908, Allensworth was spearheaded by a former slave and Army veteran, Col. Allen Allensworth, who envisioned a promised land where blacks could live free of discrimination and "create sentiment favorable to intellectual and industrial liberty."
The settlers laid out streets, all named after notable African-Americans, and built homes and public buildings. There was a church, a school, a library, a debating society, and a glee club.
Asked why he came to Allensworth, a setter from North Carolina said, "I am trying to prove to the white man beyond a shadow of doubt that the Negro is capable of self-respect and self-control.”
Allensworth prospered, boasting as many as 400 residents. But the harsh soil of the San Joaquin Valley made farming difficult. In 1914, Col. Allensworth was struck and killed by a motorcycle while crossing the street. In time, residents began to drift away, reducing the community to a virtual ghost town.
California bought Allensworth's land in 1974 and turned it into a state park. Today, visitors can stroll many of the original buildings, which still stand as a testament to the founders' vision of self-determination for America's black citizens.
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