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*On this date in 1842, Allen Allensworth was born. He was a Black minister, administrator and educator.
From Louisville, KY, born to slave parents, Phyllis and Levi Allensworth, Allen escaped from slavery at the age of twenty. During the American Civil War, he became a civilian nurse in the 44th Infantry’s hospital corps serving in the Nashville campaign. A year later he joined the Navy serving on gunboat in the Ohio River. By 1865, he became a chief petty officer. Allensworth then returned to Louisville, where he converted to the Baptist faith in their Fifth Street Church.
He was educated at the Ely Normal School in Louisville and at the Nashville Institute (now Roger Williams University. In 1868, Allensworth began teaching at the Freedmen’s Bureau School in Christmasville, KY., He was ordained a Baptist minister in 1871. He taught Sunday school in Franklin, Louisville, and Bowling Green Kentucky and was named superintendent of Sunday Schools at the state Baptist convention. Around 1875, he was appointed a missionary by the American Baptist Publication Society of Philadelphia. A political activist, Allensworth was a Republican elector from Kentucky in 1880 and a delegate to the Republican National Conventions of 1880 and 1884.
Two years later president Grover Cleveland appointed him chaplain of the 24th Infantry. He served in military post in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Montana where he established an education program for enlisted men that was imitated around the country. During the Spanish-American War (1903-1906), Allensworth served as chaplain of the 24th Infantry in the Philippines. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel, the highest rank for an Black man at the time. In 1880 Allensworth moved to Los Angeles, where he organized a company to help Blacks migrate to California.
Over the next six years the town of Allensworth, in Tulare County, grew as a business center for farming and dairying, but the town declined with the depletion of soil. Allen Allensworth died in a motorcycle accident in 1914. The site of the former town was designated Allensworth State Historical Park.
The Black West by William Loren Katz.
A Touchtone Book, published by Simon & Shuster Inc.
Copyright 1987, 1996 by Ethrac Publications, Inc.
The Encyclopedia Britannica, Fifteenth Edition.
Copyright 1996 Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.