While working as a draftsperson for the California State Parks department in 1969, landscape architect Cornelius “Ed” Pope noticed that there were no state parks in California dedicated to the history of African-Americans in California. Inspired to sustain the momentum of the Civil Rights Movement in the wake of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, Pope identified Allensworth, California, the first, last, and only town in California founded, financed, and governed by African Americans as an ideal historic district to fill that absence.
Pope had attended elementary school in Allensworth while his family lived in Colonel Allen Allensworth’s former home from 1938 to 1940. Together with Eugene and Ruth Lasartemay of the East Bay Negro Historical Society, Pope successfully lobbied state park officials and state legislators to consider the feasibility of a State Historic Park at Allensworth, helping to shepherd the project through the community review process.
Nettie Morrison was born on March 19, 1935 in Denison, Texas. She was one of ten children. Married at an early age, Nettie and her family went on to live and work in New York, NY; San Antonio, TX; Los Angeles, CA; Wasco, CA; and finally Allensworth, CA. Nettie Morrison knew the
history of Allensworth before relocating there in 1979 and was a member of the Allensworth Study Panel that created the Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park.
“The park was dedicated in 1976, and that’s when Morrison closed her pastry shop in Wasco and moved 20 miles up the highway to Allensworth. I love history,” she said. Initially, she served as a docent and helped organize a citizens’ effort to support the park. In time, though, she turned her attention to the town, “and I have been fighting ever since for one thing or another.”
Nettie served as Chairperson of the Allensworth Community Council, was a member of the Allensworth Community Services District, and established the Food Commodities Program for Allensworth, to ensure that essential commodities are distributed to the community on a monthly basis. Nettie Morrison founded the Allensworth Christian Church and both lobbied and fundraised for its move from the State Park into the Allensworth Community, where it was added onto and renovated.
Nettie Morrison was christened ‘Mayor’ by fellow community members and Tulare County officials because she was who they would call when anything in Allensworth needed addressing. Water well troubles? Call Nettie. School needs funds for a youth program? Call Nettie. Church needs an addition? Call Nettie. Turkey processing plant trying to move next door? Call Nettie.
Her leadership was recognized in December 2011 by the Tulare County Board of Supervisors in a proclamation “honoring Nettie Morrison for 30 years of advocacy and dedicated leadership to the community of Allensworth.”
Nettie Morrison came from a large family and added to that lineage by making her own large family. Between three daughters and two sons Nettie had 14 grandchildren, 24 great- grandchildren, and 2 great-great-grandchildren. Nettie’s home was the hub for family celebrations and holidays and often said, “You might entertain angels unaware.”