Most people come to Florida for the sun, beach, and weather. Many visitors leave without truly learning about the valuable history of the state. Its rich recent history stretches from the 1500s to modern times. The history is intertwined with that of Africa and the African Americans who descended from the first Africans to touch the soil. Don’t let your next trip to Florida only cover the modern commercial successes like Disney and Miami Beach. Make sure to take in some of the historical treats along the way.
Eatonville Florida – The home of famous author, Zora Neale Hurston, a 1920’s Harlem Renaissance writer and the nationally acclaimed Zora Neale Hurston festival. Eatonville was one of the first all-black towns to be formed after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and, on August 15, 1887, was the first such town to be incorporated. Many other towns that were incorporated have either not withstood the test of time, or have been incorporated into larger surrounding cities. Learn how Eatonville has survived.
Wells Built Museum – Dr. William M. Wells was an African-American physician in Orlando during the first half of the 20th century. He created the South Street Casino to host touring black bands and since Orlando was rigorously segregated, he opened the Wells was a prominent Wells’Built Hotel next door to house some of the most famous African American performers of the time. The hotel has been converted into a modest museum housing memorabilia of Orlando’s African-American community and displays on the Civil Rights movement in Orlando, along with some African art and artifacts.
The Orange County Regional History Museum – Tour the exhibit – “How Distant Seems Our Starting Place.” A committee of community residents and the History Center has brought this enlightening exhibit to the History Center’s permanent collection. This exhibit covers important African and African-American figures from Central Florida’s earliest days through today told through artifacts, text panels, photographs, and murals.
Parramore-Heritage Neighborhood -The Tour will take you through the area formerly known as the Holden Neighborhood where many of Orlando’s most prominent African American citizens once lived until 1940 when the Washington Shores area was established. See some of the first established churches and other African American firsts in the Orlando area.
Mary McLeod Bethune Tour Tour the newly renovated home of the legendary Mary McLeod Bethune, Delta Soror and founder of Bethune-Cookman University. Mary McLeod Bethune (born July 10, 1875- May 18, 1955), a child of former slaves, was one of the great educators of the United States. Founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Negro Girls (now Bethune-Cookman University) in 1904, and served as president from 1904-1942 and from 1946-47. She was a leader of women, a distinguished adviser to several American presidents, and a powerful champion of racial equality. Join the students in the celebration of her birthday as you walk the campus, view a film, see the statue of the legendary woman and take a journey down the hallowed halls of history with your tour guide who brings Ms. Bethune’s dream to life. Tour includes lunch prepared by the award-winning culinary students of the University. Take a riding tour through Eatonville & Sanford.
Florida has so much to offer and there is so much to learn about the impact and influence of all cultures on the state.