ALLENSWORTH, Calif. (KERO) — As we continue to commemorate Black History Month, we’re highlighting a historic town that many may not know about right here in our own backyard.
Just 45 minutes north of Bakersfield, lies the historic town of Allensworth. It is known as California’s first Black settlement, built by Colonel Allensworth himself. It had a school, a church, a bank, and so much more.
“Allensworth and some of his friends were looking around trying to find a place where they could build Allensworth, and they came upon this property. It had three artesian wells on the ground so that was a plus.”
It was the first town in California that was built by African Americans for African Americans in 1908.
President of Friends of Allensworth, the nonprofit organization helping to preserve the history of the landmark, Sasha Biscoe said Colonel Allensworth’s goal was to bring the Black community together.
“He purchased the land, him and some of his friends, and the Colonel went around the country to different churches and places asking people to come. This is Allensworth, this is a place of safety and peace.”
That tranquility, Executive Director of the African American network of Kern County Dee Slade said, the town was able to achieve during a time where so much racism was prevalent.
“When you go to Allensworth, it just takes you back to what I would like to say the slaves accomplished when they landed in 1619. They created, they had vision, they facilitated and fought, and dreamed big and were committed to fulfilling those dreams.”
While those dreams still live on, Biscoe explained why the town was not able to succeed long-term.
“The Colonel was in Los Angeles, and he stepped off of a railcar and he was killed, and he was the driving force for Allensworth. The water, there was a water problem, water was promised, promise was broken.”
This resulted in the water table running low, in addition to the Santa Fe railroad stop being moved, the settlement could not continue.
Now, as Jerelyn Oliveria, an interpreter with the California State Parks, explained the history lives on as a state park.
“It’s important because the state has so much history. California has so much history and this is the only one like it that honors the African American pioneers like I mentioned before but it’s also the turn of the 20th century. That’s a time period that’s not talked about a lot.”
A part of history that can still be visited by people around the world today.
“It’s important to know, this is history right in your backyard. It’s just down the street from Bakersfield and when you come out here you can learn about what happened here. Why the people came from near and far to this place because this is like the tip of the iceberg of what occurred because of many things that were going on in America,” said Biscoe.