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Intersection: Preserving Historic Black Towns

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

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

Eatonville is one of the oldest black towns in the US. Back in the 1980’s there were plans to widen a road through the town. Those plans were shelved after residents led an effort to show how the road would destroy the historic character of Eatonville. 

N.Y. Nathiri of the Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community and landscape architect Everett Fly join Intersection to explore why this town has survived where many other black towns have not.

Fly says the preservation of places like Eatonville is important to the broader community.

“We have a bad habit in America of saying, ‘Well, the black towns help themselves and no-one else,’ says Fly.

“But they were actually parts of networks, economic networks, educational networks, even environmental networks that benefit us all,” he says.

“So every time we lose one, we lose a part of the overall legacy and content of America, civic life, cultural life and heritage.”

Nathiri says there are four aspects to Eatonville’s ability to persist.

“Those pieces are faith in God, family, education, the commitment to doing the best you could educationally, and civic pride,” says Nathiri.

“From a civic perspective, I think those are the blocks on which the town stands.”


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Matthew Peddie

About Matthew Peddie

Host of WMFE's Intersection & Assistant News Director

Matthew Peddie grew up in New Zealand and studied journalism at the University of Western Ontario. After graduating with an MA in Journalism he returned to Christchurch, working as a reporter for Radio Live and Radio New Zealand. He’s reported live from the scene of earthquakes, criminal trials and rugby ... Read Full Bio »