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First incorporated black town in America--Eatonville--aims to become cultural tourism hub

Eatonville is one of 1400 incorporated African-American towns in the country. Photo: Renata Sago.
Eatonville is one of 1,400 incorporated African-American towns in the country. Photo: Renata Sago.

Central Florida’s Eatonville—the first incorporated African American town in the United States—has joined a national campaign to turn some of the first black towns into tourist destinations. At a conference today at Hungerford School in Eatonville, a coalition of four mayors from historic black settlements in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, discussed ways to attract businesses, residents, and tourists to their areas.

Mike Williams, a long-time Eatonville resident whose grandparents settled in the town in 1896, says its businesses attract people. However, he believes building homes could keep people in the area and expand the tax base.

“You’re right there on I-4. You’re right there on 17-92. You’re not like you’re a far distance from anything. And by being close to the other bigger cities like Winter Park and stuff, you get to stuff really fast. This is really a prime area," Williams says.

Eatonville Mayor Bruce Mount co-founded the Historical Black Towns and Settlements Alliance, a group of mayors of some of the first black settlements in the nation. The goal of the group is two-fold: to develop historic black towns into commercial hubs and restore pride in African American communities.