Allensworth State Park short on docents and black interpreters


    The town of Allensworth was established and governed by African-Americans in 1908. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

    ALLENSWORTH, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - Allensworth State Historic Park, just north of Delano, is facing a shortage of tour guides and other resources.

    From 1908 to 1918, nearly 300 African-Americans came to live in Allensworth, the only township built, financed and governed by African-Americans to ever exist in California.

    More than 100 years later, it's a destination for more than 15,000 visitors a year. But there aren't enough docents to keep up with all of them.

    Emmett Harden has been a volunteer docent at Allensworth for more than 20 years. His father-in-law was the person who spearheaded the plan to turn it into a state park in the 1970s.

    "I got involved because I would like to be in a, in a position to be able to tell our history from from my, from from our perspective," Harden said.

    "In the state park system, you don't have enough black people," he added.


    Steven Ptomey is one of two full-time park interpreters. They're in charge of park education and both are white.

    Often, state parks employ black park rangers, but there are fewer black interpreters within the organization, according to Ptomey.

    Sasha Biscoe is president of the Friends of Allensworth, a volunteer unit that supports the park. She said she'd like to see more black interpreters.

    "You tell It differently when you are African American because It affects you differently," she said.

    She said Allensworth doesn't have enough docents period, and because of that, they can't open all 22 buildings in the park.

    "We have children coming in from Oakland, Long Beach, from all over and to not have all of the buildings open for all of them to see is really sad," Biscoe said.

    So, she's trying new advertising strategies to recruit more volunteers to teach the next generation what Allensworth is worth.

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