The Florida Humanities Council (FHC) invites educators from across the United States to join distinguished historians, folklorists, and literary scholars for a week-long workshop, Jump at the Sun: Zora Neale Hurston and her Eatonville Roots. Just ten miles north of Orlando, Eatonville lies in the shadow of the world's largest theme park. Surrounded by five lakes and acres of orange groves, the oldest incorporated black municipality in the United States is where Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960), writer, folklorist, anthropologist, and arguably the most significant collector and interpreter of Southern African American culture spent her childhood. It was a "pure Negro town...where the only white folks were those who passed through," Hurston wrote about the town, which provided the folktales, characters, and events that inspired her literary works and folklore expeditions.
Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1998, Eatonville is a place of great significance on three levels: its history as the oldest incorporated black municipality; its association with Zora Neale Hurston, author of Their Eyes Were Watching God; and the continuity of its traditional culture. The town and its surrounding areas attracted freedmen and their families from as far west as Mississippi and as far north as South Carolina. They came to find work clearing land; planting crops; and building houses, hotels, and the railroad. Hurston's family was among the town's earliest citizens, having moved there from Alabama around 1893. Her father, John Hurston, was elected mayor of Eatonville three times and is credited with writing the local laws. According to author Alice Walker, "...everything Zora Neale Hurston wrote came out of her experience of Eatonville."