The First California Town Built And Financed By Black People

allensworth california
Tremain Prioleau II
May 24, 2024

Colonel Allen Allensworth was born a slave but retired from the U.S. Army in 1906 as its highest-ranking Black officer. He founded Allensworth in 1908, the first town in California financed, built, and governed by Black Americans.

Allensworth and his co-founders envisioned the town as the “Tuskegee of the West,” where Black people could thrive and live together. The nearby White River supplied the town's water, and it would become the center of conflict between Black and white farmers.

White farmers took it upon themselves to divert the White River stream away from Allensworth to irrigate their crops instead. Fortunately the people of Allensworth were prepared, and used groundwater from the Central Valley. They never missed a day of hydration.

Pacific Farming Co. drilled less than half of the wells that the town needed, forcing Allensworth to sue. A settlement was reached, but the town fell into debt, forcing many residents to leave. The town still stands today, with the remaining descendants using solar-powered hydro panels to produce clean water despite the drought.

The people of Allensworth, California, are resilient. When their water source was threatened, they found their own. Today, their descendants carry on the fight for drinkable water in Allensworth, honoring their ancestor's struggle while creating a future for themselves.