Allen Allensworth Biography, Life, Interesting Facts
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Childhood And Early Life
Allen Allensworth was born into slavery on the 7 April 1842 in Louisville, Kentucky in the United States. He was one of thirteen children. As a companion to the son of the slave-owner where he lived, he was exposed to education and began to read at a young age.
Allen Allensworth studied theology at Roger Williams University, Nashville.
Escape From Slavery
As a teenager, Allen Allensworth was sold to a person named Fred Scruggs. His new owner had race horses and Allensworth, who was charged with exercising the horses, became a competent horseman and gifted jockey. In 1862, when Allen Allensworth was twenty, Scruggs took him to Louisville for a horse race, and it was there that Allensworth met Union soldiers from the 44 Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment. With the assistance of the soldiers who had befriended him, Allensworth escaped by joining the Hospital Corps. During the rest of the war, he worked in the Hospital Corps.
Rise To Fame
In 1863 he joined the US Navy and worked on gunboats. Then in 1869 Allen Allensworth went to Kentucky and worked with his brother William where they run two restaurants. The brothers sold the restaurants for a profit and Allen spent his share on educating himself. He enrolled at the Ely Normal School which was run by the American Missionary Association for the children of freed slaves.
Allen Allensworth was ordained as a Baptist Church preacher in 1871. He taught in Kentucky during the mid-1870s and also worked as a financial agent for the General Association of the Colored Baptists.
Moving back to Louisville with his wife, Allensworth was a pastor at the Harney Street Baptist Church. He became a proficient public speaker and did so at a national level. His next role was running the Sunday School Missionary in Kentucky where he helped build Sunday schools and promoted education.
Allensworth also got involved in politics, and in 1880 and 1884 he was the only African-American delegate at the Republican National Convention.
He had spent two years campaigning to become an Army chaplain, and in 1886, his application was accepted. His work meant that the family was sent to various locations and during this time he developed a training manual dealing with education in the army.
By the time Allen Allensworth retired from the US Army in 1906, he was a Lieutenant Colonel, the first African-American to have been appointed to the rank. He settled with his family in Los Angeles. In time he met up with four other people William Payne, John W. Palmer, William H Peck, and Harry A. Mitchell and they formed the idea of founding an African American town where people could live free from racial discrimination. They set up the California Colony and Home Promotion Association.
Crossing many hurdles, they obtained land, and their plan was put into action with thirty-five families making a move within the twelve months of settlement. Stores, a school, church, and library were built. Problems with water arose, and there was also an issue with the railway, but things were moving head until September 1914. That month Allensworth was in Monrovia to deliver a lecture when he was struck by a speeding motorcycle and killed. His death resulted in the town winding down as families left to find work in other areas.
In 1973 the former site of the town of Allen Allensworth was acquired by the Californian Parks, and Recreation Department and the Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park was established. There is a website for the Colonel Allensworth park with a photographic exhibition, virtual tour and an app to download.
Allen Allensworth met his wife Josephine Leavell when he was a student in Nashville. Leavell was a teacher and musician. They had two daughters together.
Allen Allensworth was killed after being hit by a speeding motorcycle in September 1914.
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