Eatonville, fl the first all black town in the u.s.
Aug. 18, 1887 Eatonville becomes one of first all-black towns in U.S.
Eatonville, six miles from Orlando, was one of the first all-black towns incorporated in the U.S. after the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation that ended slavery.
In August 18, 1887, only ten years removed from Reconstruction (1863-1877), a group of twenty-seven Negro men (led by Joe Clark) convened with the purpose of founding, what would turn out to be, the first incorporated African American settlement community in the United States. Eatonville, the town born on that day, was named for a White man, a Union Army Captain Josiah Eaton, who served as mayor of the neighboring town of Maitland from which most of the future Eatonville residents originated, sold with the intension that it become a city of black self-government.
The Town of Eatonville is the oldest municipality in America. Eatonville is a town rich in black history, tucked away just north of the City of Orlando and home to a little over 2,400 people 90% Black.
Calling itself “The Town That Freedom Built,” Eatonville today boasts that it’s the “Oldest Incorporated African American Municipality in America.”
It was described in two 1930s novels by Harlem Renaissance author Zora Neale Hurston, “Mules and Men” and “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” The latter novel includes an overview of the town’s founding through the eyes of the main character.
When she was three, her family moved to Eatonville, Florida; in 1887 it was one of the first all-black towns to be incorporated in the United States. Hurston said she always felt that Eatonville was “home” to her as she grew up there, and sometimes she claimed it as her birthplace. Her father later was elected as mayor of the town in 1897 and in 1902 became preacher of its largest church, Macedonia Missionary Baptist.
Hurston later glorified Eatonville in her stories as a place where African Americans could live as they desired, independent of white society. In 1901, some northern schoolteachers visited Eatonville and gave Hurston a number of books that opened her mind to literature; she described it as a kind of “birth”. Hurston spent the remainder of her childhood in Eatonville, and describes the experience of growing up there in her 1928 essay, “How It Feels to Be Colored Me”.
In 2006, the Zora Neale Hurston Library opened on Kennedy Boulevard.
Photo of Eatonville, Florida City Council (1907)