Historical Allensworth Celebrates Juneteenth

On this day, 159 years ago, more than 250,000 Black slaves in Galveston Bay, Texas learned of their fate under the emancipation proclamation and were freed by executive decree. Today, “Juneteenth” is a national celebration commemorating the end of slavery in America. 

Events are taking place across California today, from San Diego to Redding. Some very special celebrations have been taking place in Allensworth and Allensworth State Historic Park in the San Joaquin Valley — an area steeped in history. 

Allensworth was founded in 1908 by a Black military colonel named Allen Allensworth, who had escaped slavery in Kentucky. He established Allensworth as an independent, self-governing colony for African Americans. 

“Complete with its own school, a church, and a bank, the town of Allensworth offered a safe haven for over 300 families of free blacks that had continued to be oppressed and controlled under a Southern sharcropping [sic] system that was designed to keep blacks on the same plantations that they were working before the war,” according to the State Parks website.

“Freedmen’s towns,” as they were called, had been established elsewhere in the U.S. after the Civil War. However, Allensworth was a first for the Golden State.

The town operated for about two decades before it fell into desolation. There are some 500 residents living in this rural stretch of land today. But during this time of year, parts of Allensworth are brought back to life. 

“Those who came out to Juneteenth this year were treated to a trumpet solo by Shayla ‘Trumpet Master’ Belle, one of the young people who put on performances,” KVPR reports

Her mother said she “is making history just by being on the grounds of Allensworth and continuing to celebrate events like Juneteenth. She dreams her daughter can make it big and be famous one day – but also remember her roots.”

Those roots are deep and painful. They’re also marked by a resilience that continues to inspire marginalized people and all over the world. Today’s Juneteenth celebrations are a reminder of how far America has come. Black leaders hope they’ll also remind us of the work that needs to be done.