In the long shadow of the Civil War, a group of pioneers in the American West were determined to find a place of their own. Allensworth became California's first Black-founded, financed and governed town. The enduring legacy of Colonel Allen Allensworth's dream is recreated and maintained daily by those who painstakingly work to keep the environment of Allensworth alive. What began in 1908 as a settlement by a former slave, is today the subject of an exhibition of contemporary photographs now on view at the California African American Museum (CAAM). The power and beauty of these extraordinarily vibrant photographs give the viewer a sense of actually being in the Allensworth site. In addition to recognizing the historic significance of Allensworth, these images are also personalized interpretations by photographic artists Rick Russell, David Paul Green, Mel and Karen Carll, Clark Campbell, Jean Carter, Ted Dayton, Christy Stallcup, Robert Mance and April Bielefeldt, all of whom sought to recreate the soul of that pioneering spirit through their modern camera lenses.
Read about Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park (Allensworth) and how it came to be the first town in California founded and settled by African Americans in August, 1908. Learn more about this historic landmark by visiting this State of California website.
Conceived as a photographic study by Rick Russell, the result is a collective effort by the photographers. The actual images on the exhibition were printed by Mel Carll of the SCV Center for Photography, and the organization of the photographs into an exhibition was project managed by CAAM visual arts curator Mar Hollingsworth. The exhibition includes a video created by Dusty and Barbara Stiles that celebrates the contributions of today's docents and volunteers to sustaining the stories and the place that became Allensworth. A catalog of the photographers' commemorative works also accompanies the exhibition.
We admire each photographer for not only finding a way to capture the essence of Colonel Allensworth's vision, but for wanting to share what a tremendously breathtaking place Allensworth continues to be. We are also very grateful for the generosity of their collective efforts in donating their images to CAAM's permanent collection. It is efforts such as this that allow CAAM to fulfill our cultural mission of presenting for public enrichment the wonders of African American contributions in our great state of California. Welcome to Allensworth: A Place. A People. A Story.