By Angela M. Coggs
On Saturday, October 8, 2016 a group of students from the San Bernardino City Unified School District attended the Annual
Rededication event at Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park in Earlimart, California from 10 a.m.to 4 p.m. Established in 1908, Allensworth was the first town in California to be founded, financed, governed and populated by blacks.
The rededication ceremony is an opportunity for park users and supporters to renew their commitment to the park and its symbolic representation of African American self-determination. Events scheduled throughout the year bring the town to life and inspire a new interest in returning Allensworth to its glory days as a vibrant, successful town.
This was the first trip to Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park for this group of chaperones, parents, and students from San Bernardino. “It was an enriching experience. One which I intend to repeat and share.” said Katella Coggs, one of the chaperones. “It was gratifying to see how much the youth absorbed the information. It illustrated how much this knowledge is craved and needed.”
The day consisted of tours given by docents (a person who is a knowledgeable guide, especially one who conducts visitors through a museum/historical site and delivers a commentary on the exhibitions), puppets shows, and square dancing, and entertainment, food and vendor booths. The short documentary about the town played on a loop in one of the old barns on the site.
“I never heard of Allensworth until today,” said Yonathan Habtemariam, 10th grade student at Cajon High School. “It was very interesting to hear the docents tell the history of the town and how people continue to preserve the history of this ethnically diverse contribution made in the development of California. My favorite parts were the barbershop and learning the true story about the Buffalo Soldiers.”
Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park, located 30 miles north of Bakersfield, is a modest but growing assemblage of restored and reconstructed buildings today. A schoolhouse, a Baptist
church, businesses, a hotel, a library, and various other structures symbolize the rebirth of one man’s dream of an independent, democratic town where African Americans could live in control of their own destiny. Allensworth traveled throughout the eastern and mid-western stated lecturing and promoting Booker T. Washington’s philosophy of African American self-reliance.
Colonel Allen Allensworth and Professor William Payne both firmly believed that, through education and hard work, African Americans could rise above the effects of slavery, attain greater social stature, and more fully realize their potential as a people. They had a mutual desire to live in an environment where African Americans could live free from discrimination, merge their values with those of other pioneers of like mind to establish an independent, self-sufficient colony.
“(I had a) wonderful day learning about our rich and prosperous history of resilience, survival, and entrepreneurialism at Allensworth State Historic Park. We enjoyed live music, dancing and food. We supported black businesses and toured historical sites,” said Trimonisha Singer. “Amazing is an understatement. I am so thankful to be able to share it with our youth.”
Before heading out to Allensworth, the students were given a brief history of Colonel Allen Allensworth and the town that was named in his honor. The trip was a success and the youth were exposed to history that is not taught in school or mentioned in text books. African-American parents, grandparent, and “the village” must be responsible and teach their children about their history. The group looks forward to returning to Allensworth for other events in the future. It certainly takes a village to raise future generations to come.