Josephine Leavell Allensworth

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Josephine Leavell Allensworth
Allensworth josephine.jpg
Background information
Born 1855
Trenton, Kentucky, United States
Died 1938 (aged 82–83)
Los Angeles, California, United States
Occupation(s) Musician, music teacher
Instruments Organ

Josephine Leavell Allensworth (1855–1938) was an African-American musician, music teacher, and activist. She co-founded Allensworth, California and the Women's Improvement League.

Early life[edit]

Josephine Leavell was born in Trenton, Kentucky, in 1855. She married Allen Allensworth in 1877. He was an African-American Baptist minister in the United States Army. They had two daughters, one named Nella. The family lived in Fort Supply, Oklahoma, and Fort William Henry Harrison in Montana. Leavell would play the organ when Allensworth would host services.[1]

Founding of Women's Improvement League[edit]

Allen Allensworth would retire in 1906. They founded Allensworth, California. While living in Allensworth, Leavell founded the Women's Improvement League. She also provided the land for the founding of the Mary Dickinson Memorial Library.[1] The founding of the library developed out of a library being approved by the Allensworth Board of Trustees. The reading room they approved was too small for the community. Leavell therefore created the property to develop larger land for a larger library. The library is named after her mother and was completed in July 1913. The building of the library cost $500. It could hold 1,000 books.[2] The Allensworths donated their personal book collection to the library. She was also a school board member.[1]

Death and legacy[edit]

Leavell moved away from Allensworth in 1922, after her husband was killed by a motorcyclist while in Monrovia, California. Leavell moved to Los Angeles, California. She lived with her daughter Nella, who was married to Louis Blodgett.[1] As a resident in Los Angeles, she fought for racial integration in swimming pools and other venues.[3] Leavell lived in Los Angeles until she died in 1938. Allensworth is now a California State Historic Park called Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park.[1]

Further reading[edit]

  • Bunch, Lonnie. "Josephine Leavell Allensworth." Black Women in America: A Historical Encyclopedia. Brooklyn: Carlson Publishing (1992). pp. 22–23


  1. ^ a b c d e "Allensworth, Josephine Leavell (1855–1938)". Online Encyclopedia Index. Retrieved June 5, 2013. 
  2. ^ Wheeler, B. Gordon. "Allensworth: California's African American Community". Wild West. Weider History Group. Retrieved June 5, 2013. 
  3. ^ Anderson, Susan. "Don't let cows trample on L.A.'s history". Collections. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 5, 2013. 

External links[edit]