Was this American the first-ever black man in Hawaii?

Nduta Waweru August 31, 2018
Photo: Obama Hawaiian Africana museum

History books state that most Hawaiians were dark-skinned people with negroid features, but not so many state that they are black or have any African ancestry.

The same history books state that the first person of African descent to step foot on the island and live there is Anthony D. Allen.

Born in 1774 in Albany or Schenectady in New York, Allen was the son of a free black man and an enslaved woman.  His father was a mariner, a job Allen would take when he was 24. After gaining his freedom, he moved to Boston Massachusetts where he took on a job on a whaling vessel.

In other accounts, Allen is said to have escaped from slavery after the death of his master. He had feared that his master’s widow would sell him and thus he found himself a new master who bought him at $300. Under his new master, he escaped and ran to Boston to work at sea.

He had been working for eight years when he ran into his ex-master who almost forced him back to slavery. The owner of the ship on which Allen worked came into an agreement with Allen’s former master to pay the $300 owed. Allen promised the shipowner to pay back everything owed, ad he was able to pay him in 1807.

Allen then sailed throughout the world including the Caribbean, China and Hawaii, where he eventually settled in 1811. He made a home in Hawaii and was called Alani by the natives. He not only married a Hawaiian woman but also became the advisor of Hawaiian leader, King Kamehameha.

Was this American the first-ever black man in Hawaii?

King Kamehameha Photo: Wiki CC

He also acquired six acres of land and eventually owned a number of houses and livestock on the land. He is believed to be the first person to operate a commercial dairy in Hawaii. He also provided rooms to boarders in Waikiki and contributed to the construction and maintenance of a road, today known as Manoa road.

He also operated a hospital and on his land was a burial ground for his family members and the men with whom he worked on the ships.

Allen amassed incredible wealth that he later left to his wife and three children upon his death in 1835.  He apparently knew of his death and asked for his friends beforehand. He was buried on January 2, 1836.

Allen was considered an important figure in Hawaii and praises about his contribution were recorded far and wide, including in this entry by Reverend John Diell in the Seaman Journal.

“The last sun of the departed year went down upon the dying bed of another man who has long resided upon the island. He was a colored man, but shared, to a large extent, in the respect of this whole community. His name was Anthony D. Allen. He was born on the German Flats, in New York, in 1774. He came to this island in 1810, where he resided ever since. He has been a pattern of industry and perseverance, and of care for the education of his children, of whom three survive. Injustice to his memory, and to my own feelings, I must take this opportunity to acknowledge the many expressions of kindness which we received from him from the moment of our arrival. He has been constant in his attendance upon the services of the Sabbath. On my return I learned that he was alarmingly ill. I hastened to see him; but he could not speak distinctly to me. I could only pray with him and his family, and commend him to the precious grace of the blessed Redeemer.”

Last Edited by:Ismail Akwei Updated: August 31, 2018


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