Allensworth, the Freedom Colony: A California African American Township

“A beacon of possibility”

In 1908, an escaped slave turned army officer named Colonel Allen Allensworth founded a small town in California’s Central Valley where African Americans could thrive. Over the next decade some three hundred Black pioneers established a self-sufficient farming community with its own school, church, businesses, and municipal government. Although the community only flourished for a handful of years, it nonetheless became a symbol of the possibility of a fairer America in the era of Jim Crow.

In words and photographs, Allensworth, the Freedom Colony tells the story of this town from its beginnings to the creation of Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park. The voices of former Allensworth residents are prominently featured throughout a narrative expertly woven by Alice C. Royal—one of the last people to be born in the community—and writer/photographer team Mickey Ellinger and Scott Braley. This updated edition features a beautiful new cover and a publisher’s note from Malcolm Margolin.


“This exceptional book brings the history of this African American Township to life with hundreds of stories and pictures.”—Black Voice News


“[An] impressive and important work of history.”—California History Action

About the Author

Alice C. Royal

Alice Calbert Fauntleroy Royal, RN, MPH (1923–2014), was born in her grandparents’ home in Allensworth, California. After an early childhood in the Central Valley, including two years in Allensworth when she was seven and eight years old, she grew up in Alameda and became a public health nurse. She chaired the Colonel Allensworth State Park Advisory Committee from 1985 to 1989, served on the Allensworth planning task force for 2008, and was a longtime member of the Friends of Allensworth.

Lonnie G. Bunch III is the founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.