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This Pastor Wants To Recreate a Black Farming Paradise in California

In 1979, an idealistic 44-year-old Black woman named Nettie Mae Morrison moved with her husband to Allensworth, 75 miles south of Fresno, in California’s Central Valley.

“She wanted to be a part of history,” said her son, Dennis Hutson, who was in his mid-20s at the time.

The town had a distinctive past. It was founded in 1908 by Allen Allensworth, a man born into slavery who became the first African American to reach the rank of lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army. About 3 square miles in size, Allensworth was the first town in California founded and governed by Black people—and it served as a beacon of possibility for Black people all over the nation, its population growing to around 1,200 people.

But the community soon fell on hard times.

In 1914, the Santa Fe Railroad Company moved its rail stop from Allensworth to nearby Alpaugh, a majority-White town, dealing a major blow to Allensworth’s economy.