African American Historic Places in Orlando
Orlando’s history dates back to prehistoric times, with a melting pot of peoples and cultures that have left their mark along the way. One of the most important — not just to Central Florida, but to the American civil rights movement — is our African-American community, whose influence is felt throughout the region.
Learn more: Orlando History
Historic Eatonville and Zora Neale Hurston
Just 25 minutes north of Orlando’s main tourist areas, historic Eatonville was incorporated in 1887, making it one of the first self-governing all-black municipalities in the United States – and the oldest still in existence. existence today. The heart of the township, the Eatonville Historic District, was added to the US National Register of Historic Places in 1998, attracting countless history and culture buffs in the decades since.
At the turn of the 20th century, Eatonville attracted a family whose daughter would become a successful author: Zora Neale Hurston. His best-known novel, Their eyes looked at Godis located in Eatonville and surrounding communities.
Today, Eatonville honors its most famous resident with the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts, aka The Hurston, as well as the annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival of Arts and Humanities, aka ZORA!® Festival, and the ZORA! Festival season.
Learn more: Zora! Festival
The Hurston is an intimate space that serves as the perfect entry point to Eatonville’s history. Here you can find resources to help you get the most out of your visit, including details of historical markers within the city limits. Guided walking tours are also available by appointment; call (407) 960-1361 for details. Admission to the museum is always free, but donations are encouraged.
Other points of interest in Eatonville include St. Lawrence AME Church, a historic African-American place of worship that features famous murals by Andre Smith, the founder of the nearby Maitland Research Center and fellow artist of Hurston. Directly opposite is Mosley House, which was built by Eatonville’s founder and first mayor, Joseph Clark, and was one of Eatonville’s favorite landmarks in Hurston.
The ZORA! Festival Season is a multifaceted, multicultural celebration of Hurston and arts, culture and education. It features a series of engaging events that take place in Eatonville and other Orlando-area locations, many of which are free. The season begins with the month-long ZORA! Festival in January, followed by Weekend Traditions in June and HAtitude Cultural Flair in October.
Wells’Built Museum of African American History and Culture
Eatonville isn’t the only place to explore African-American culture in Orlando. Downtown Orlando is home to the Wells’Built Museum of African American History and Culture, located in the historic Wells’Built Hotel.
Learn more: Wells’Built Museum
Built in 1921 by Dr. William M. Wells, a prominent African-American physician, the hotel catered exclusively to African-American guests who were barred from Florida’s then-isolated hotels, including famous musicians such as Count Basie, Ray Charles, Duke Ellington and others. . As a result, he earned a place on The Green Book of Black Travelersan annual publication that began in the 1930s and served as the basis for the 2018 Oscar-winning film, green paper. Listed on the United States National Register of Historic Places, the Wells’Built houses memorabilia from Orlando’s African-American community, exhibits about the Civil Rights Movement, and African art and artifacts.
Learn more: Downtown Orlando
Hannibal Square is part of Winter Park, a charming community about 25 minutes north of Orlando’s tourist areas and near Eatonville. It’s also home to the Hannibal Square Heritage Center, where you can learn about the neighborhood’s origins as an African-American community.
Learn more: Hannibal Square Heritage Center
Officially founded in 1881, Hannibal Square was originally staffed by African Americans who worked for the South Florida Railroad and wealthy Winter Park families. On October 12, 1887, it became the site of one of the nation’s first civil rights marches, when Gus Henderson led a group of black residents across the city’s dividing railroad tracks to vote in the election that officially incorporated Winter Park, including Hannibal Square. . Additionally, two black residents were elected aldermen, serving from 1887 to 1893.
Find out more: Winter park
Today, community members strive to preserve the area’s history and landmarks. The Hannibal Square Heritage Center is a great place to learn about their efforts and the neighborhood’s past.
Head to downtown Orlando to visit historic Tinker Field, a space next to Camping World Stadium that served as a baseball stadium from 1923 to 2015 and was added to the US National Register of Historic Places in 2004. It was also the site of a moving Civil Rights Speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964.
Although the ballpark no longer exists, the field itself has been preserved and now hosts large-scale events such as November’s Electric Daisy Carnival.