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Residents of traditionally Black city sue to cease land sale

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — One of many first traditionally Black cities within the U.S. is suing the native college board to cease the sale of land that’s tied up with Florida’s legacy of racial segregation many years in the past and the state’s fast-paced progress these days.

An affiliation devoted to the preservation of the city of Eatonville’s cultural historical past final Friday sued the Orange County College Board in an effort to cease the sale of the 100-acre property the place the Robert Hungerford Preparatory Excessive College as soon as stood.

The proposed $14.6 million sale of the college property to a developer with plans to construct 350 new new properties, together with and enterprise areas, threatens the cultural heritage of the city, the Affiliation to Protect the Eatonville Neighborhood mentioned in its lawsuit. The sale is about to shut on Friday.

With a inhabitants of round 2,350 folks residents, of whom nearly three-quarters are Black, the city situated exterior of Orlando is probably finest recognized via the writings of Harlem Renaissance author Zora Neale Hurston. Eatonville was the setting for one in all her finest recognized works, “Their Eyes Had been Watching God.”

The affiliation, together with different Eatonville residents, worry the sale of the property in a centrally-located a part of fast-growing metro Orlando will enhance visitors and worth out longtime residents of the city, many whose households have lived there for generations.

“If this sale is allowed to proceed, the wealthy tradition and heritage of the city that Zora Neale Hurston popularized all over the world as ‘the primary integrated African American group in the USA’ might be erased,” mentioned mentioned N.Y. Nathiri, government director of the affiliation, which is being represented by the Southern Poverty Legislation Heart.

The college board mentioned in an announcement that it couldn’t touch upon pending litigation.

Based in 1887, Eatonville was among the many early all-Black integrated municipalities established within the many years after the top of slavery within the U.S. Round 1,200 Black cities or settlements had been established within the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, in accordance with the Historic Black Cities and Settlements Alliance.

The Hungerford college was established in 1897 for Black youngsters going through an academic system that segregated them from white college students. The Orange County College Board bought the property from a belief in 1951 below a deed restriction that the college would proceed for use to coach Black youngsters. Even after the U.S. Supreme Court docket desegregated the nation’s colleges in 1954, Orange County public colleges remained segregated for years afterwards.

The college board was capable of promote a portion of the property in 1974 after a circuit court docket lifted the deed restriction for that part of land. Within the 2010s, the city of Eatonville, in cooperation with the college board, tried to have the deed restriction eliminated by suing the belief for a launch in order that the remaining land could possibly be offered for business functions throughout a time period when Orlando was one of many fastest-growing metros within the U.S.

The events reached a number of totally different settlements over the last decade, however the affiliation’s lawsuit argues they’re void since they both weren’t court docket accepted or didn’t have the participation of all of the required events, together with the Florida legal professional basic representing the general public’s curiosity.

Final yr, Eatonville residents elected a brand new city mayor who opposes the proposed improvement. The trustees don’t have any authority to raise the deed restriction, and any lifting of the restriction ought to both profit Eatonville’s youth or be used for academic functions, in accordance with the lawsuit.


Comply with Mike Schneider on Twitter at @MikeSchneiderAP


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