Town of Eatonville, CRA Executive Director 
Shaniqua "Shan" Rose  

Eatonville Emerges as Strong Contender for Florida’s First Museum of Black History

Orange County, FL – Eatonville, known as the “Town That Freedom Built,” has secured its position as the second-ranked finalist for the location of the state’s first Museum of Black History. The Florida Museum of Black History Task Force will hold a special meeting in Tallahassee on Friday, April 19, 2024, to review the proposals and choose three finalists for an additional analysis by the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) School of Architecture and Engineering Technology. FAMU will present its findings in May.

The Eatonville/Orange County proposal captures the community’s commitment to preserving history and cultural heritage, as well as fostering strong public, private, and philanthropic partnerships that characterize the region as the country’s top tourism and meeting destination. The top four candidates the Florida Museum of Black History Task Force – in ranked order – are St. Johns County, Eatonville/Orange County, Sarasota, and Opa-Locka.

“Through partnerships, the Town of Eatonville has secured the land and a comprehensive plan to build the Florida Black History Museum to further our enduring legacy of embracing those who, once enslaved, came here to thrive,” said Eatonville Mayor Angie Gardner. “We hope to extend that same warm welcome globally, inviting all to explore the deep connections between our community’s values and our rich history – a history that positions Eatonville as the fitting home for the museum. We are excited to create an everlasting experience for visitors worldwide and to welcome them into the heart of our community.”

While the final decision remains pending, this recognition reaffirms the region’s commitment to celebrating the vibrant legacy and contributions of Black communities across Florida. Established in 1887, two decades after the Civil War, Eatonville is the oldest incorporated Black community still in existence in the United States. It also has a unique place in literary history as the childhood home of the celebrated author Zora Neale Hurston, whose impact endures through her influential works like “Their Eyes Were Watching God.”

The creation of the museum, which was signed into Florida law in 2023, will educate visitors on how individuals of African descent shaped the state’s history more than 500 years ago. It will also house exhibitions on the contributions and accomplishments of Black Americans defending and preserving Florida and the United States. The multipurpose venue is planned to include research and storage facilities, meeting rooms, full-service banquet facilities, and a performance space.

Visit the Florida Division of Historical Resources’ website to learn more about the Florida Museum of Black History Task Force, its mission, and objectives.

About Orange County Government: Orange County Government strives to serve its residents and guests with integrity, honesty, fairness and professionalism. Located in Central Florida, Orange County includes 13 municipalities and is home to world-famous theme parks, one of the nation’s largest convention centers and a thriving life science research park. Seven elected members make up the Board of County Commissioners, including the Mayor, who is elected countywide. For more information, please visit or go to Orange County Government’s social media channels.

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