Black colonel's dream town celebrates 100 years

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ALLENSWORTH, Calif. — Spirals of alkaline dust swirl across the hardpan where a century ago 300 black Americans planted alfalfa and corn hoping racial tolerance would take root.

They were led to this remote place by escaped slave Allen Allensworth, a retired Army chaplain and the first black lieutenant colonel. Their goal: to build a prosperous African-American farming community that would change perceptions about people who first suffered slavery, then Jim Crow segregation laws.

"It was more than creating an all-black community," said Lonnie G. Bunch, founding director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. "There was a national political strategy involved in the founding of Allensworth that makes it unique."

Allensworth _ now a state park with rebuilt clapboard houses, two general stores, a Baptist Church and beloved schoolhouse _ will be the site of the town's centennial celebration this weekend. And thousands of visitors are expected to travel streets named Sojourner Truth and Booker T. Washington.

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