Explore African American influence and culture throughout Orlando during Black History Month on your next visit, including Historic Eatonville (pictured).
Updated Jan. 24, 2023
Everyone knows that Orlando offers unforgettable activities for all visitors, including theme parks, wild attractions, dining and nightlife, the arts, shopping, sports, outdoor adventures, and much more. But we’re also home to engaging African American culture and history — 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. See what’s on tap for 2023 and make plans to attend now.
See how Orlando is celebrating Black History Month in 2023, including art exhibitions, educational forums and uplifting celebrations of the arts. Check back for additional 2023 events as they’re announced, or visit our Event Calendar to find more things to do while you’re in town.
The Story Quilters of Hannibal Square at Hannibal Square Heritage Center (Jan. 27 – Apr. 29, 2023)
The Hannibal Square Heritage Center in Winter Park pays tribute to past, present and future contributions of Winter Park’s historic African American community though museum-quality exhibitions, festivals and gallery talks. In addition to the award-winning, 200-piece Heritage Collection: Photographs and Oral Histories of West Winter Park, the Heritage Center is hosting The Story Quilters of Hannibal Square from Jan. 27 – Apr. 29, 2023. The exhibit features exquisite storytelling quilts and artist reflections on the Black experience, spirituality, justice, femininity, family and nature. It’s free to visit, and you can even take a free group story quilting class with Lauren Austin, founder of The Hannibal Square Story Quilters, in partnership with the Crealdé School of Art. Winter Park is about 25 minutes north of our main tourism districts.
Discover: Winter Park
Emotional Roller Coaster: Love Letter to Life at Orlando Repertory Theater (Feb. 3, 2023)
In honor of Black History Month, onePULSE Foundation is partnering with the Orange County Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Initiative and Bethune-Cookman University to present a special performance of the original readers theater piece, “Emotional Rollercoaster: Love Letter to Life.” The event, hosted at the Black Box at Orlando Repertory Theatre, explores topics such as race, body image, sexuality, relationships, and peer pressure as a microcosm of life’s ups and downs. The free event will include a chat-back session with the performers as well as complimentary authentic African American cuisine.
Black Resistance Exhibit at Orlando City Hall Terrace Gallery (Feb. 3 – Apr. 30, 2023)
The City of Orlando kicks off its Black History Month Celebration with a brand-new visual arts exhibition inside the Terrace Gallery at downtown’s Orlando City Hall, about 20 minutes from our tourism districts. Featuring local visual artists in a variety of mediums, the new “Black Resistance” exhibit recognizes how African Americans have fought repression and inspired folks to participate in civil rights and racial equity movements.
Discover: Arts & Culture in Orlando
Voices of Freedom: An Evening of Spoken Word (Feb. 10, 2023)
In downtown Orlando, Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts invites the entire Central Florida community and its visitors to experience the Freedom Series, which celebrates African American artists and showcasing diverse performing arts. It kicks off with An Evening of Spoken Word, hosted by City of Orlando Poet Laureate Shawn Welcome.
Black History Walking Tour (Feb. 10, 2023)
The second annual Black History Walking Tour will take place in the Parramore neighborhood of downtown Orlando beginning at 2 p.m. During the hour-long tour, a guide will share all about Orlando's rich Black history while viewing various historic sites, including the inside of the Wells’Built Museum of African American History and Culture.
Sanford Jazz Ensemble: Salute to Black History Month Concert at The Ritz Theater (Feb. 19, 2023)
Get up and dance to classic jazz, Motown and DooWop at the Sanford Jazz Ensemble’s Salute to Black History Month Concert. Held at the historic Ritz Theater in Sanford, about 40 minutes from our tourism districts, this toe-tapping event celebrates acclaimed African American musicians like Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Thelonious Monk, with medleys by Marvin Gaye, The Temptations and The Four Tops.
Black History Month Events at Orange County Libraries (Feb. 1 – 28, 2023)
Orange County Library System is celebrating Black History Month with over 50 free events throughout Central Florida, including the 33rd Annual National African American Read-In at downtown’s Orlando Public Library. Discover live music and dancing, folklore and storytelling, hands-on crafts and more, plus celebrate the accomplishments of notable black American inventors and scientists like Mae Jemison, the first African American woman to travel in space.
Black History Month Events & Exhibits at the Orange County Regional History Center (Feb. 16 & 18, 2023)
The Orange County Regional History Center, a multi-story heritage center in the heart of downtown Orlando, is hosting several exhibits and special events in honor of Black History Month. Explore the triumphs and tragedies of Central Florida African Americans at the permanent African American History exhibit, join the History Book Club — February’s selection is Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God — and enjoy free admission to Celebrating Black Arts & Culture, a family-friendly celebration with hands-on activities, exciting performances and special guests on Feb. 18, 2023.
Discover: Orlando History
Samone Hicks & Rose Grace: Songs of Hope and Inspiration at Timucua Arts Foundation (Feb. 17, 2023)
Celebrate Black History Month with Samone Hicks, soprano, and Rose Grace, pianist, at Timucua Arts Foundation, an intimate 100-seat concert hall nestled in downtown Orlando’s SoDo District. Share a bottle of wine as the duo perform Songs of Hope and Inspiration, featuring art song cycles from Black composers including Nkeiru Okoye, Undine Smith Moore, Florence Price, Adolphus Hailstork and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.
8th Annual MLK Gospel Concert at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts (Feb. 18, 2023)
Join in a joyous celebration at the 8th Annual MLK Gospel Concert, produced and directed by Grammy Award Winner, Dr. Jeffrey Redding. Hosted at Steinmetz Hall at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Orlando, this event offers an incredible opportunity to hear live music inside one of the world’s most acoustically perfect spaces in exchange for non-perishable food donations.
Discover: Steinmetz Hall
Kevin Harris’ Joy-Filled Noise: A Musical Celebration of Black History at Timucua Arts Foundation (Feb. 24 & 26, 2023)
Celebrate Black history at Timucua Arts Foundation with music director Kevin Harris, who will lead a vocal and instrumental ensemble of some of the region’s top talent in a survey of Black American Music, from the South African hymn Siyahamba, to African American Spirituals, Jazz, Blues, and Gospel songs old and new. Expect original arrangements, stirring performances and stellar harmonies at Joy-Filled Noise: A Musical Celebration of Black History.
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!® Festival Season and the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts, aka The Hurston.
ZORA! Festival Season is a multifaceted, multicultural celebration that primarily takes place in January. 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.
African American History Throughout Orlando
Just west of downtown Orlando is the Parramore District, Orlando’s oldest and largest African American neighborhood. Founded in the late 1800s, Parramore is home to a diverse collection of historic buildings, businesses and restaurants, most notably, the historic Wells’Built Hotel. Parramore is also the only Commercial National Registered Historic District in Orlando, making this one of the most authentic places to explore throughout Black History Month and beyond.
Built in 1921 by African American physician Dr. William Monroe Wells, the Wells’Built Hotel originally catered to African American guests who were barred from Florida’s then-segregated hotels, earning it a place on The Negro Travelers’ Green Book. Now known as the Wells’Built Museum of African American History and Culture, this historically significant location showcases memorabilia of Orlando’s African American community, displays of the Civil Rights movement, and African art and artifacts.
Part of the Orlando Main Streets program, the Parramore District is dedicated to preserving and embracing the neighborhood’s rich African-American history, heritage and heart, while empowering residents to create their own legacies. One of the district’s newest additions, Luminary Green, shines a light on individuals who made outstanding contributions to the Parramore-Holden community throughout their lifetime, honoring them with 12 luminary art installations. Located in the heart of Orlando’s Creative Village, Luminary Green is the perfect place to stop and reflect on the past, while looking forward to the future. If you get hungry, pop into The Monroe across the street — this modern comfort food restaurant is named after Dr. William Monroe Wells of Wells’Built fame.
Discover: Downtown Orlando & Parramore
Downtown Orlando is also home to Tinker Field History Plaza, a memorial park next to Camping World Stadium that was the site of a moving Civil Rights speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964. Located in the West Lakes Market Street District, Tinker Field was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 2004 and established as an Orlando Historic Landmark in 2015.
Discover: Orlando Neighborhoods
A short drive west in Winter Park is Hannibal Square. This historic neighborhood began as a community of African American laborers and domestic workers, whose lives and contributions are now preserved at the Hannibal Square Heritage Center. Established in 2007 by the Crealdé School of Art, the center honors Winter Park’s African American heritage through a series of classes, exhibits and festivals, like the annual Unity Heritage Festival in Hannibal Square. Throughout the year, you’ll find exhibits dedicated to topics like the African American experience, Black heritage, cultural preservation and Southern folklore.
Discover: Hannibal Square Heritage Center
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. Our Black-Owned Restaurants Guide features delicious options like Mad Crab Seafood & Wings and Sister Honey’s, a bakery run by James Beard Awards semifinalist Evette Rahman.
Discover: International Drive
Three Masks, located in Orlando’s West Lakes district, is the perfect place to shop for one-of-a-kind African goods, including fine art, masks, jewelry and more sourced from Nigeria, Ghana and various parts of Africa. The center also hosts frequent African cultural events and activities, like poetry readings, dancing and musical performances.
Discover: Shopping in Orlando
Ready to get started? Preview Orlando’s rich African American history and culture with Ericka Dunlap, Orlando local and the first Black woman to be named Miss Florida.
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!
Use this interactive map to track down all of the Black History Month events and exhibitions featured in this blog. (Click here if you found us via Google and don’t see a map or images!)
Stay Connected to Orlando!
You never know what we’ll dream up next. Connect with Visit Orlando’s Vacation Planning Services for personalized assistance, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube for the latest offers, exclusive tips, newest attractions and fun events. You can also subscribe to our eNewsletter for more information from Orlando: Theme Park Capital of the World.