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First African American Settler in Hawaii

Community Contributed

By Ramie Kuahuia, Aka`ula School Student

Editor’s note: This is an edited version of a paper Ramie Kuahuia, a ninth grader, wrote for English class at Aka`ula School. It was submitted for print by her teacher, in observation of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this week and Black History Month coming up in February.

Anthony D. Allen, one of the first African Americans to settle in Hawaii, was prosperous and made many contributions to Hawaii.

Allen was born a slave in German Flats, New York in 1774. His mother was likely a slave and his father was a free man. Allen’s father was a seaman but he was a poor businessman. Allen’s master was a physician, and his name is Dr. Dougal.

Allen risked running to freedom and went to sea like his father. He was 24 years old when he escaped to Boston around 1810.  When Allen got there, he went on a shipping vessel. Then Allen worked on the ship for eight years, as a steward and a cook. While Allen was on the ship, he sailed to the Caribbean, Northwest Coast of American, China, France, Haiti, Havana and Hawaii. When Allen lived in Hawaii, he ran into his former slave owner in 1806. His owner almost was forced Allen to go back into slavery. The ship owner, Mr. Coolege, had known Allen for eight years on the ship and Coolege bought Allen paying $300 to the former owner.  Allen wrote Coolege a Promissory note and repaid Coolege in 1807. After running away from slavery, Allen was able to buy his freedom and he sailed the oceans of the world.

In 1811, Allen settled in Hawaii and married a local Hawaiian.  Native Hawaiians called him Alani. Allen  had three children, a daughter named Peggy and two sons named Anthony Jr., and George Caldwell. He was a land steward for the king, and Kamehameha the Great gave Allen’s family six acres of land in Waikiki at what is now called the corner of Punahou and King Street.  In 1820 Allen had a dozen houses on his property including his residence, eating and cooking house, and a well.

Allen owned and ran a variety of businesses from his property in Waikiki. When Allen was farming, he would collect animals and boarded others’ animals as well. He built one of the earliest known hotels in Waikiki and people called it a resort. Allen also opened a hospital for injured seaman and sea captains and an entertainment building that housed a bar and bowling alley. He  helped oversee the construction and maintenance of one of the first improved roads in Honolulu, Punahou Street. Allen had cattle and he might have operated the first commercial dairy in Hawaii. Allen’s property hosted special events such as parties and grand dinners, and one of his guests was “King Kauikeaouli Kamehameha III. It was common for members of the royal family to have dinner at Anthony D. Allen’s. They guests arrived at sunset and music playing late,” according to a historic source.

Allen was well loved and respected by the people of Hawaii. They “respected and admired by missionaries, other residents, visitors, and Native Hawaiians alike,” according to Helen G. Chapin of Hawaiian Historical Society. The people of Hawaii loved Allen as one of their own.

Allen died of a stroke on Dec. 31, 1835 with his friends by his side. Governor Kuakini Adams arrived in Hawaii to attend Allen’s funeral. Anthony D. Allen was also buried on his beautiful property.


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