Just 40 miles north of Bakersfield lies a little town, many people know little about. On the outskirts of Earlimart, Allensworth was founded by Colonel Allen Allensworth in 1908. Colonel Allensworth, born a slave in 1842 in Louisville, escaped 20 years later and joined the Union Army in the Civil War. He later became an Army chaplain and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel, the first African American to reach that rank.
He wanted a place where blacks could live free from discrimination, so he bought 800 acres along the Santa Fe rail line and started the first town in California founded, financed, and governed by African Americans.
"You come out here you learn some history, that's number one. You get a little bit of self pride, that's number two. And, then you get to have some fun,” says Willie Burns, an Allensworth State Park employee. “You won't regret that you came."
After Colonel Allensworth died in 1914, the town declined, and its residents moved away. It was turned into a State Historic Park in 1976, and many of its buildings were restored.
The Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park is only open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. This Saturday, it will hold its annual re-dedication, celebrating 104 years since the town was founded.
"It's a re-dedication to show that people still have the spirit and want to know their history, you know, because this was a nice place when it was first opened," says Mae Fischer-Dingwall, who has been visiting Allensworth every year for the last decade. "I love it because it's a part of my history. It's part of history for all of us who want to learn about our forefathers and people who did this, so that we can have a place to continue to come."
The Allensworth State Park re-dedication is Saturday, October 13th from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. All of its buildings will be open and people will be dressed in early 20th century costumes.