The Other Side Of Central Florida

by Vanessa Loy (BPRW)

The Other Side Of Central Florida
In 2005, a television adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston's novel "Their Eyes Were Watching God" premiered on the ABC network. The movie, based on a historical event, told the story of a black community in Florida that suffers a violent hurricane. The movie and novel are set in the town of Eatonville, Florida, a short distance from Orlando. While unfamiliar to many Americans, Eatonville has a notable place in black history.

As the Eatonville government website www.townofeatonville.org/history_pg2.html explains, the city was one of the first black communities to be formed after the Emancipation Proclamation. Originally part of the city of Maitland, newly freed slaves moved in the area in search of work. Maitland’s white establishment feared an increase of black voting power, so they permitted blacks to purchase nearby land and establish their own town. After a vote of 27 black residents, Eatonville became the first incorporated all-black town in the United States on August 15, 1887.

Zora Neale Hurston's legacy is in unmistakable in the city. The Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts on Kennedy Boulevard displays all types of works by black artists. Present and upcoming exhibits will feature homemade quilts by Eatonville residents and African metalwork sculptures. Eatonville also hosts the annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities. This multi-day, multi-disciplinary event celebrates the works of Hurston, the city of Eatonville and the contributions of people of African ancestry. More information about these events and exhibits can be found at www.zoranealehurstonfestival.com.

So if you want a change of pace from the theme parks the next time you visit central Florida, come learn more about the sights, sounds and soul of Eatonville’s living black history.
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