HONOLULU (KHON2) — 211 years. That is how long one story has been hidden from Hawaii’s history.
Over two centuries later, the story of an African American slave turned advisor to the King was revealed this week with a commemorative plaque at Washington Middle School.
Anthony D. Allen, a slave from New York, landed on the shores of Hawaii in 1810 after working on a ship following his escape from slavery.
Allen befriended King Kamehameha I after being at sea for nearly a decade and became his close advisor.
He built a close enough relationship with the King to be gifted a plot of land that is where Washington Middle School on South King Street is located today.
“This site that we’re standing on right now was only a strip of land and the ocean was beyond these streets right here,” says Deloris Guttman, director and historian at the Obama Hawaiian Africana Museum.
“There were no houses, no nothing. And he had his farm. Actually, he had the first resort in Hawaii with 10 grass huts and a hotel and a bar and a bowling alley,” Guttman said.
Signage has been installed at Washington Middle School to indicate the location as a National Underground Railroad Network site.
This project is a result of a collaboration between Washington Middle School, Obama Hawaiian Africana Museum and the National Park Service.
“The National Underground Railroad Network for Freedom is an organization that basically is telling the stories of more of the expanded aspects of the Underground Railroad because there were so many different ways that slaves would use to try to escape the injustice and brutality of what the slavery was,” says David Kilton, chief of interpretation at the National Park Service.
Fast forward to the 1920s and this property was sold to the State Department of Education.
This history holds relevance to the students who still attend school there every day.
“We feel that our students have a better chance in moving forward when they learn about the circumstances that Anthony Allen came from and others, that they needed to overcome in order to be successful,” says Michael Harano, principal of Washington Middle School.
“And in these days, our students here in particular, come from some of those dire circumstances.”
History shares that no one needs to remain in challenging circumstances if they are willing to work their way out of it.
To find out more about the Obama Hawaiian Africana Museum, click here.
To find out more about Anthony Allen and the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, click here.