Explore Black influence and culture throughout Orlando’s historic towns, special events, limited time exhibitions.

Orlando has a rich legacy of Black influence. Visitors have the opportunity year-round -- plus some new additions this month -- to explore the local people, places and events that have helped shape history, through new theme park exhibits, award-winning Black-owned restaurants, live musical celebrations, and tours of historic landmarks such as the country’s first all-Black municipality.

Of special note to historians, Orlando is home to ten stops featured on the Florida Black Heritage Trail, which was created in 1991 as a way to identify sites, buildings and other points of interest in Black history throughout the state of Florida that should be preserved.

Travelers to Orlando should be aware in advance of their visit that the region takes safety extremely seriously, as masks are required for everyone over the age of 2 while in a public space, and social distancing measures are strictly enforced. Information about Orlando’s safety measures can be found at VisitOrlando.com/healthytravel.

Disney programs and exhibits  

  • The Soul of Jazz: An American Adventure  is a new exhibit running through February at Walt Disney World Resort’s EPCOT that celebrates the distinctly American musical art form, originated by African-Americans and fusing the influences of many different cultures.  Fans of Disney and Pixar’s new film Soul will recognize Joe Gardner – the musician, mentor and teacher from the film as the exhibit “host.”  
  • At Disney Springs, four new art displays, created by emerging Black artists as part of a collection of wearable art for HUE Unlimited and inspired by Soul, are currently on display, while several shops are spotlighting products from Black designers and artists. Motown, Jazz and Smooth tunes fill the air from live musicians three nights per week, and select dining locations are featuring exclusive menu items, inspired by Soul and The Princess and the Frog, Disney’s first animated feature starring a Black princess.

From the airport to the arts

  • Orlando International Airport: During the month of February, travelers at Orlando International Airport can view the Wells’ Built Museum of African American History and Culture exhibition, showcasing historical artifacts and information that tells the story of African-Americans in Orlando and Florida. The exhibit, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the opening of the museum, can be found at the airport’s 3rd Level, near Checkpoints for Gates 70-129 in the Main Terminal.
  • Uprooting Prejudice: Faces of Change (Through March 31) - 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.
  • Frontyard Festival™: Through Unity, We Shall Overcome (Feb. 25) - 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.

Historic Towns

  • Eatonville: Located 15 minutes north of downtown Orlando, the historic town of Eatonville was incorporated in 1887, making it one of the first self-governing, all-Black municipalities in the U.S. — and the oldest still in existence today. Visitors will find a collection of restaurants, historical sites and museums. It is also where American Folklorist Zora Neale Hurston grew up and is honored by the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts, providing gallery space for artists of African descent. Visitors can also explore the history of this community by visiting the Moseley House Museum, the second oldest structure in the town featuring exhibits and early memorabilia of the town, St. Lawrence A.M.E. Church, one of America's most Historic African American churches and one of the first in the area, in addition to the Rise Mural Project, celebrating the culture, history and future of Eatonville.
  • Jonestown is a redeveloped area that was recognized as the City of Orlando’s first Black community. Just a few minutes east of downtown at Orlando Fashion Square Mall, Bronze Kingdom African Art Gallery boasts the world’s largest collection of rare African bronze statues, plus beaded and wood sculptures — more than 2,000 pieces in all.
  • Historic Hannibal Square was officially founded in 1881 as a community for black families that helped build the town of Winter Park and the historic South Florida railroad. At the Hannibal Square Heritage Center, visitors can explore the district’s origins, as well as guided walking tours of the “West Winter Park,” describing the hardships and the triumphs of the African-American community from the 1900 to the present, along with its historic landmarks.

Dining

  • Black-Owned Restaurants -  Black-owned businesses in Orlando serve up enticing flavors from award-winning desserts at Sister Honey’s and Soul Food at Nikki’s Place Southern Cuisine to vegan-focused cuisine at DaJen Eats cafe. Two local Black-owned restaurants earned recent honors on Yelp’s national list for Black-owned restaurants to watch: Chicken Fire (so popular it has no website or published phone number and received praise from a local food critic for the spicy dishes being a “heavenly bit of hell”) and StreetWise Urban Food, led by a classically trained Haitian chef.

Virtual Events

  •  Celebrating African-American Culture in Art, Music and Dance Webinar (Feb. 25): Hosted by leading members of Orlando’s arts community, this virtual workshop will highlight the critical role African-American families have played in the creation of our country and celebrate the diversity of African-American families as a core part of American society.