Incorporated on August 15, 1887, the town of Eatonville was one of the first “all-black” communities formed after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. While sources seem to disagree on this date, the town’s own official web-site provides information on the event. Named after Josiah C. Eaton, one of a very small group of white landowners willing to sell land to African Americans, enough land was acquired to incorporate a small town.
The Eatonville Historic District, which includes property from Wymore Road, Eaton Street, East, and Fords Avenues, Ruffel and Clark Streets are included as well. The area includes 48 historic buildings related to the town’s establishment as a home for African-Americans.
As of the 2000 census, there were 2,432 people living in the community. The median income for a household at the time was $29,457. With the average family size at 3.42 and the medium age was 31 years old. About 21.9% of families and 25.0% of the population of the community were below the poverty line.
Notable residents are, Zora Neale Hurston, a folklorist and author. Deacon Jones, a defensive end football player and Norm Lewis, an actor and singer. Every year the community comes together the last weekend in January for the “Zora Festival.” The week-long event covers everything from art, food, fun and games to lectures and book readings. Thousands come into town for the event and for the top rate talent for the annual concert held on the main stage during the concert.