Explore African-American influence and culture throughout Orlando during Black History Month or your next visit, including Historic Eatonville (pictured).
Everyone knows that Orlando offers unforgettable activities for all visitors, including open-air theme parks, wild attractions, dining and nightlife, the arts, shopping, sports, outdoor adventures, and much more. But did you know that we’re also home to engaging African-American culture and history? Because we are — and we’d love for you to experience it not just during February’s Black History Month and its featured events, but throughout the year.
Learn more: African-American History & Culture in Orlando
While exploring Orlando’s African-American history and influence, you’ll benefit from robust cleaning and safety measures at our cultural venues, as well as at our hotels, restaurants, transportation providers and other businesses. These enhancements are designed to help protect you while you’re diving into all the worlds of wonder that Orlando has to offer — including the invaluable impact that African Americans continue to have on our community!
Please note: Depending on the timing of your visit, some experiences may be temporarily modified or closed. Learn more about healthy travel and what’s open in Orlando, and check with your favorite attractions for their current status.
Black History Month Events in Orlando for 2021
See how Orlando is celebrating Black History Month in 2021, including educational forums and uplifting celebrations of the arts. Check back for additional 2021 events as they’re announced, or visit our Events Calendar to find more things to do while you’re in town.
City of Orlando’s Black History Month Events
In February, Orlando traditionally celebrates Black History Month with a variety of in-person events and exhibitions showcasing African Americans’ many contributions and positive influence in the Central Florida community. For 2021, in an abundance of caution, the city’s Black History Month workshops and educational panels will instead take place virtually with a series of online events hosted by downtown Orlando’s Orange County Regional History Center, including:
- Virtual Lunch & Learn: Collecting and Preserving the Black Lives Matter Movement (Feb. 5, 2021): How are America’s cultural institutions — including the Goldsboro Museum in Sanford, just north of Orlando — collecting and telling the Black Lives Matter story as it unfolds? Find out by joining this virtual, interactive discussion featuring curators working to preserve this significant movement for the future. Get complete details.
- Black Mental Health Matters: This virtual event will feature live performances, a powerhouse panel, small group discussions and more as participants work together to start some important conversations about mental health and Black families. Get complete details.
- Celebrating Black Culture Series: Storytelling and Poetry Webinar (Feb. 11, 2021): Dr. Obi Nwakanma, a poet and professor of English at the University of Central Florida, is joined by fellow poet and author Valada Flewellyn and blues musician and songwriter Ruth King for a celebration of the power of words, as well as a look at the role of storytelling in African tradition and the African-American cultural experience. Get complete details.
- Celebrating African-American Culture in Art, Music and Dance Webinar (Feb. 25, 2021): Hosted by leading members of Orlando’s arts community, this virtual workshop will highlight the critical role African-American families have played in the making of our country and celebrate the diversity of African-American families as a core part of American society. Get complete details.
Frontyard Festival™: Through Unity, We Shall Overcome (Feb. 25, 2021)
Presented by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, this free concert will feature the world-renowned Aeolians Chorus from Oakwood University, as directed and produced by Dr. Jeffrey Redding, a Grammy Award-winning music educator. It’s part of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts’ Frontyard Festival series, which offers live, socially distant entertainment and unique experiences in the heart of downtown Orlando. Get complete details.
Orlando City Library Services African-American Virtual Read-In (Feb. 28, 2021)
Celebrate African-American literature in poetry, story and song, as performed by local luminaries in conjunction with the 31st Annual National African-American Read-In. This virtual event is free and open to the public. Get complete details.
Uprooting Prejudice: Faces of Change (Through March 31, 2021)
In this special exhibit at the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida in Maitland, about 30 minutes north of Orlando’s tourism districts, renowned photographer and storyteller John Noltner presents stunning images and powerful words designed to interrupt identity-based hate.
The Soul of Jazz: An American Adventure
This new exhibit at EPCOT® at Walt Disney World® Resort celebrates the distinctly American musical art form, originated by African Americans and fusing the influences of many different cultures. It will be available at least through the end of February.
Save on discount tickets: Walt Disney World Resort
African-American Culture & History in Orlando
Orlando’s history can be traced back to the prehistoric era, with a melting pot of peoples and cultures making their marks along the way. One of the most important — not just to Central Florida but to the American Civil Rights movement — is our African-American community, whose influence can be felt throughout the area.
Historic Eatonville & Zora Neale Hurston
Just 25 minutes north of Orlando’s main tourism districts, the historic town of Eatonville was one of the first self-governing, all-Black municipalities in the U.S. — and the oldest still in existence today. Incorporated in 1887, it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1998.
Around the turn of the 20th century, Eatonville attracted the family of famed author Zora Neale Hurston, who was a child at the time. The town and nearby communities also provided a setting and inspiration for Hurston’s best-known novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God.
Eatonville celebrates their most famous resident with the annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities, aka ZORA!® Festival, and the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts, aka The Hurston.
ZORA! Festival is a multifaceted, multicultural celebration that traditionally takes place in January and early February. But no matter when you visit Eatonville, stop by The Hurston for resources to help you make the most of your visit, including details about historic buildings and markers throughout the city, such as St. Lawrence AME Church and the Mosley House. Admission to The Hurston is free, but donations are encouraged. Guided walking tours are also available by appointment; call (407) 960-1361 for details.
African-American History Throughout Orlando
Downtown Orlando is another rich source of African-American history and culture. Based inside the historic Wells’Built Hotel, the Wells’Built Museum of African-American History and Culture was constructed in 1921 by prominent African-American physician Dr. William M. Wells and is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. It originally catered to African-American guests who were barred from Florida’s then-segregated hotels, including many famous musicians, and earned a spot on The Negro Travelers’ Green Book, which served as the basis for 2018’s Oscar-winning Green Book.
Today, the Wells’Built houses memorabilia of Orlando’s African-American community, displays of the Civil Rights movement, and African art and artifacts. Although the venue is currently operating with limited hours due to COVID-19, visitors are always welcome to stop by for some historic selfies. Additionally, Orlando International Airport (MCO) is hosting an exhibition celebrating the museum's 20th anniversary, including historical photographs and artwork.
Downtown Orlando is also home to historic Tinker Field, a space next to Camping World Stadium that was the site of a moving Civil Rights speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964 and was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 2004.
A short drive west from there will take you to Hannibal Square in Winter Park, home of the Hannibal Square Heritage Center. Here, you can explore the district’s origins as an African-American community with ties to the historic South Florida Railroad.
Black-Owned Restaurants & Other Businesses
While visiting Orlando, you can support a variety of Black-owned restaurants and other businesses in February and all year long, including many options in downtown Orlando and Eatonville. In fact, two just made Yelp’s national list for Black-owned restaurants to watch: Chicken Fire just east of downtown Orlando, and StreetWise Urban Food close to Orlando International Airport.
Like The Huston and the Wells'Built Museum, Bronze Kingdom African Art Gallery is another Black-owned attraction worth visiting. Just a few minutes east of downtown at Orlando Fashion Square Mall, it boasts the world’s largest collection of rare African bronze statues, plus beaded and wood sculptures — more than 2,000 pieces in all.
African-American history, arts and culture are key parts of Orlando’s rich tapestry, and there’s lots more to explore while you’re here. Take advantage of our free planning tools and other resources to unlock an Orlando getaway that’s perfect for your family!
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