Eatonville, Florida - History

History

It was one of the first all-black towns to be formed after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and was incorporated on August 15, 1887. Zora Neale Hurston grew up there.

Every winter, Eatonville stages its annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities. The Zora Neale Hurston Library opened in January 2004.

Eatonville was also the hometown of former professional football player David "Deacon" Jones. Artist Jules Andre Smith did a series of paintings depicting life in Eatonville during the 1930s and 1940s. Twelve of these works are at the Maitland Art Center in the adjacent town of Maitland.

While sources seem to disagree on the exact date and even the year of the town's incorporation, the town's own official site provides a detailed account of the process and the dates. According to that official source, the town is named after Josiah C. Eaton, one of a small group of white landowners who were willing to sell sufficient land to African Americans to create a large enough tract of land to incorporate a black town. In addition to this, Hurston's novel Their Eyes Were Watching God presents a brief overview of the founding of the town through the eyes of Janie Crawford, the main character of the novel, and some suggest a cipher for Hurston herself. The novel also mentions several places in the state of Florida that many outsiders would have no concept of without the novel.

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