Allen Allensworth was born a slave in Louisville, Kentucky on April 7, 1842. Around the age of 12, he was sold as punishment for learning to read. Allensworth’s mother gave him money to buy a book and a comb, telling her son to “put the knowledge from the book into your head and comb everything else out.” He attempted to escape slavery twice.
In 1862, he assisted as a nurse to Union Army troops during the Civil War and the following year, he signed up as a First Class Seaman in the Navy. By the end of his military career in 1906, Allensworth was one of the first and highest ranking African-American Army Chaplains, a Buffalo Solider, a Lt. Colonel, an educator and exemplary leader.
Col. Allensworth first settled in Los Angeles with his wife Josephine Leavell Allensworth, and were integral members and leaders of black Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Times heralded the arrival of Allensworth, “one of the most distinguished colored men of this country and the senior chaplain of the U.S. Army.”
In 1908, Col. Allensworth along with Rev. W.H. Peck, miner J.W. Palmer, real estate agent Harry Mitchel and educator William Payne incorporated the California Colony and Home Promoting Association. The black-owned Association’s goals were to establish a settlement that would fulfill Col. Allensworth’s dream of a community that would aid in “settling some of the vast problems now before the country and give African-Americans a reason to sing in spirit and truth ‘My Country, ‘Tis of Thee’.” That settlement would become the township of Allensworth.
Col. Allensworth was killed by reckless motorcyclists on his way to preach at Second Baptist Church in Monrovia September 1914. His wife continued their work within Allensworth until the 1920’s when she moved back to Los Angeles to live with her daughter. Josephine Allensworth died in 1932. Col. Allensworth and his wife are both buried in Los Angeles.