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Allensworth Centennial 1908-2008: 100 Years of the California Dream

Allensworth Centennial Celebration
Centennial Celebration for Town Founded by African Americans

2008 marked the 100th anniversary of the founding of the town of Allensworth, known as Allensworth State Historic Park, located in Tulare County north of Bakersfield.

California State Parks, the Friends of Allensworth, the California State Parks Foundation and the Legislative Black Caucus held an exciting Rededication on October 11 and 12 to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of this historic community, with an attendance of almost 5,000 people.

Founded on August 3rd, 1908, the all African American town represented the culmination of years of planning and the birth of what was to become “the town that wouldn’t die.”

The founder and namesake of the town of Allensworth was Colonel Allen Allensworth.  He was born a slave in Louisville, Kentucky, on April 7, 1842.  He obtained his freedom during the Civil War by fleeing behind Union lines. He worked as a volunteer “nurse”, served in the United States Navy during the Civil War, operated two restaurants, was an ordained minister, and served as the chaplain of the 24th Infantry until his retirement in 1906.  When he retired he was the highest ranking African American officer in the U.S. Army.

The library at Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park.

With 22 house museums available to the public for tours, Allensworth offers the public the chance to see a turn-of-the-century town in its heyday.  With a church, school, library, hotel and general store, the town had all of the features common to rural America.   For the centennial celebration, all of the buildings were open for public tours with docents in period attire.  The event also featured other activities such as a working blacksmith shop, candle making, and a children’s game area. 

Another feature of the celebration was the installation of the Allensworth traveling exhibit, established as a display to publicize the Centennial celebration and on loan from the California African American Museum in Los Angeles.  The exhibit was comprised of historic photos and documents from the early pioneers of Allensworth.

Image of Colonel Allen Allensworth (top right) was the frontspiece page from "Battles and Victories of Allen Allensworth, A. M., Ph. D., Lieutenant-Colonel, Retired, U. S. Army." - published by  Sherman, French & Company in 1914.  (This image is in the public domain in the United States, meaning that it was first published prior to 1923.)