Several all-black communities sprung up in the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Instead of toiling for hours without receiving the fruits of their labor, the African American community decided to construct villages where they were free individuals and could live as they pleased. Many African Americans were not just free, but also receiving education and pursuing a variety of professional jobs at this time.
Many anti-abolitionists and white racists believed that African Americans were only good as slaves and were progressively taking over their lands, therefore the advancement of the Black race in America from enslaved people to well-educated professionals did not sit well with them.
Unionville, founded in 1867 in Talbot County, Maryland’s Eastern Shore, by 18 black soldiers who served in the Union Army during the war, was one of the first of these villages.
Colonel Allen Allensworth, a retired African American preacher, gathered a group of other African Americans to construct an African American town called Allensworth, inspired by the various communities that had popped up. Colonel Allensworth was a freed slave who joined the army as a union soldier during the American Civil War after escaping slavery. The village was the first of its sort in California, and its founder’s ideals and aspirations were enthusiastically received by the African American community.
Allensworth Town was founded with the goal of becoming an independent state and country in the near future. The town was also founded on the belief that African Americans could self-educate, own their own property, create their own goods, operate their own economy, and thrive if they did so. It was dubbed the “Land of the African American Dream” by many African Americans who believed in its principles and prosperity.
By 1907, Allensworth had grown and prospered at a rapid rate. Several African Americans came from all across the country to settle on the property, and many acquired land to help sustain the goal.
In 1910, the settlement became an independent town with its own government and the state’s first African American school. Locals worked tirelessly to raise $5,000 to fund the construction of the school, which was completed successfully.
Many of the residents worked as farmers and dealers and lived in harmony with one another, free of racism and segregation.
Allen Allensworth, the town’s leader, was killed by a motorcyclist in California on September 14, 1914, at the age of 72, and the town’s fortunes plummeted.
Businesses began to crumble, and many people sold their homes to stay afloat. Weather circumstances were also unfavorable to the community, with multiple droughts destroying agriculture products. Residents began to flee the town after the outbreak of World War I, seeking sanctuary and safety from the conflict.
Oscar Overr took over the town and kept it together until 1966 when the state of California discovered arsenic in the drinking water and ordered the town’s closure. Many locals relocated as a result of the discovery, leaving the hamlet with only about 35 families.
The California State Parks and Recreation Commission decided in 1967 to transform the town into a historic park in order to preserve what was left of it.
In Allensworth town, a few families can still be found, although the town has never had white residents.
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