Eatonville: America’s Oldest Incorporated Black Community

By: Gary McKechnie

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I grew up outside of Orlando in the small town of Maitland, which borders the smaller town of Eatonville.

Even then I knew that Eatonville was the nation’s oldest incorporated black community (it was founded in 1887), but it wasn’t until I visited again a few weeks ago did I realize how vital Eatonville was to writers, artists, and performers.

Beneath an archway at the entrance to town, bronze plaques share a bit of the history of the town. In addition to Zora Neale Hurston, the famed author and folklorist whose works inspired January’s annual Zora! Festival, what truly brought home the importance of Eatonville was the plaque that told of the Club Eaton.

Back in the day when clubs were segregated, this nightspot was swinging and throbbing with the sounds of legendary artists who found a safe haven and enthusiastic audiences in Eatonville.

Who were these people?

Well, Duke Ellington, Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway, and BB King for starters.

The building, now known as the Club Koha (Keeping Our History Alive), is still here. Plan to see it when you visit historic Eatonville.

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