Black History Month Spotlight: Col. Allen Allensworth, Founder of a Black Utopian Township

Every weekday this month, we’re profiling fascinating figures from L.A.’s Black history

For a running list of all our 2021 Black History Month profiles, click here.

Born enslaved in Kentucky, Allen Allensworth (1842-1914) was already an ordained minister, an Army chaplain, the first African American to reach the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Army, an RNC delegate, and a military manual writer when he moved to Los Angeles in 1906. In 1908, he formed the self-sufficient utopian Black American community of Allensworth Township near Bakersfield. According to the Los Angeles Times:

At its dedication, he reminded his followers of their purpose in separating from their former, mostly white communities. “If we expect to be given due credit for our efforts and achievements, they must be made where they will stand out distinctively and alone,” he said, exhorting the residents to “settle upon the bare desert and cause it to blossom as a rose.”

At its peak, the Allensworth Township boasted 400 residents, its own school district, library, and voting system. Sadly, Colonel Allensworth was killed by a motorcyclist in Monrovia in 1914, and the town he had dreamed of died out shortly after. However, much of the town is now Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park.

Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.