Florida towns that were once slaves are now at war


“This is a sacred place.

Nathiri heads an association to protect the Eatonville community, a town founded by Joe Clark in 1887. It was amazing that it happened. After the Civil War ended, formerly enslaved African Americans flocked to work in central Florida. The white property owners refused to sell the land, but Clark told two of his white Northerners, Louis Lawrence and Josiah Eaton, who had homes in the area, of the first incorporated black town. I persuaded him to have a lot available for purchase in one of his, Eatonville.

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Joe Clark (left) helped found the community of Eatonville, which was incorporated in 1887 after blacks were allowed to purchase land in Central Florida. Clark becomes mayor of Eatonville.

file photo

“There was a lot of resistance from the surrounding community,” says landscape architect Everett Fly. “

Fly has been researching black towns for over 40 years. “By 1915, there were fewer than 60 incorporated black towns in the United States,” he said.

And how many of them are left? “I think there are probably only 20 or 25 left,” Fry said. “More than 90% of it is about racism. It’s all from ‘Neither.'”

Eatonville is struggling today. The average annual income is about 2.7 million yen. Family Dollar is the only store. There are no supermarkets, gas stations, or pharmacies.

What makes Eatonville different is probably Zora Neale Hurston, an anthropologist and noted author who grew up there. She was the great storyteller of the Eatonville story. “What we can do here is capitalize on the genius of Zora Neale Hurston and the authenticity of Eatonville as a cultural and historical space,” Nasiri said.

‘Zora Tourism’ already exists, with the Zora Neale Hurston Museum. Zora! The festival (held annually by Nasiri’s Preservation Group) regularly attracted more than 50,000 people before COVID. Less.

10 minutes from downtown Orlando and 30 minutes from Disney World, the 100-acre property was valued at over $20 million in 2019 and is worth even more now. “As a small community of 2,500 people, we are located on the largest undeveloped parcel of land in Orange County.

In Nathiri’s opinion, Eatonville’s survival depends on who wins the contest for the land.The problem is the town isn’t Own It never does. It was once part of a 300-acre campus that makes up about 40% of Eatonville. This land was donated to the Trust by a philanthropist. The Trust operated the Robert Hungerford Normal and Industrial School, a private boarding school he founded in 1899 to provide vocational education to segregated Southern black students.

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The location of the Hungerford School that served black students in the segregated South.

CBS news

In 1951, the Orange County Board of Education purchased Hungerford from the trust that owned it for just over $16,000. The school board acquired all 300 of his acres, but with important restrictions. The land still needed to be used for the education of black children.

Vera King attended black public schools there. She spent her 30 years working at the high school built on site. She is now gone with 200 of her 300 acres. “If we’re not careful, Eatonville will go extinct,” she said.

King, 85, from Eatonville, said when Orange County Public Schools began selling plot after plot of land in Hungerford, forcing courts and trustees to cut back on the number of acres needed time and time again. I am outraged by what happened to Used to educate black kids, but now… nil.

“They then really profited from that sale,” King said.

Orange County School System paid approximately $8 million in these transactions.

Julian Johnson, wearing a shirt with the hashtag #LandBack, isn’t the only Eatonville resident who thinks Orange County Public Schools should give Eatonville land as a form of reparation. “This is economic justice we are fighting for,” he said. “Land is economic justice. To demand it back. You’ve done people wrong over and over again.”

So Johnson helped mobilize for the showdown as the final 100 acres were due to be sold to developers on March 31 for $14 million (a significant drop from their previous valuation). The only way Eatonville can control what is built is through zoning and planning. Last month, the town council met to vote on changes to pave the way for a new “community” of more than 350 homes and apartments. “Once the project is complete, we will provide shopping, dining and entertainment options for residents and visitors to participate and enjoy,” Derek Bruce, the developer’s attorney, said at a council meeting.

A full room didn’t look like it.

NY Nathiri said, “Simply put, this development will obliterate this vibrant and thriving historic community.”

Another speaker, Otis Mitchell, said, “You guys come in and put all these things here and do you think we black people can stay here? Shame on yourself.”

Julian Johnson said, “The streets are talking, people are talking, people are angry and furious.”

And Lily Shaw told the council members, “We’re going to be outnumbered. Please vote against it.”

they did

But developers can buy and build sites as long as they match Eatonville’s vision for the town’s survival.

In a statement to “CBS Sunday Morning,” the Orange County Public School System reaffirmed its commitment to proceeding with the sale. “OCPS is proceeding with a sale honoring the contract with the purchaser.” No word yet from the developer.

For Eatonville residents, lawsuits could be next.

The last stand of defeat? Not if they can help it.


CBS news

For more information:

Story produced by Robbin McFadden. Editor: Carol Ross.


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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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