Eatonville is one of several African American towns settled across the United States after the Civil War, incorporated in 1887. All of the town’s officials and residents were black. Eatonville’s most famous resident was playwright and novelist Zora Neale Hurston.
The Robert Hungerford Normal and Industrial School was one of a several secondary schools founded for (and often by) black people in Florida after the Civil War, including –
The Florida Institute, in Live Oak, founded in 1880 supported by the Baptist Home Mission Society
The Daytona Educational and Industrial School for Negro Girls, whose founder was Mary McLeod Bethune, in 1904. The Daytona School would merge with Cookman Institute for Men in 1923 and become the Bethune-Cookman College. Mary McLeod Bethune would later found the National Council for Negro Women.
Lincoln High and Graded School, a Public High School in Talahhassee opened in 1876 for Negro students. Interestingly enough, now rated the best High School in Florida. Although the school has a diverse student body, roughly 1/3 of the current enrollment is black.
The Florida Baptist Academy – founded in 1892 by the Florida Negro Baptist Convention. The school is known as the birthplace of the Negro National Anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” In 1900 the song was composed by brothers James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson, a former professor at the college. The school traces its roots to the 1879 founding of Florida Baptist Institute, which later merged with Florida Baptist Academy to form Florida Memorial University.
Cookman Institute for Men, founded in 1872 by the Freedmen’s Society
The Boylan Home Industrial Training School, founded by the Woman’s Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church
The Staunton High School, a Public High School in Jacksonville.
It should be noted that, as of this 1914 Study, there were only two public High Schools in Florida for black people, and 5 Private Secondary Schools with 4 year programs. The only black Collegee were –
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes – founded in 1887 by an act of the Florida Legislature. This would eventually become FAMU.
Edward Waters College, founded in 1866 by a group of AME Ministers
The Hungerford School was established in 1889, modeled after Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute with financial support from Booker T. Washington . The school was named after Dr. Robert Hungerford, a white physician living in Maitland who had been teaching reading and writing to local black men. The Hungerford School was founded by a young couple, Russell and Mary Calhoun; Russell Calhoun was a Tuskegee graduate. After Robert Hungerford died of typhoid fever in 1888, his son gave Calhoun 40 acres for a new school for African Americans.
The school’s purpose was to educate African American boys and girls (through 12th grade), with a curriculum of literacy, vocational, and life skills. Students lived on campus, and were assigned jobs or chores. The school’s campus included a dairy, chicken coops, gardens, classrooms, boy’s and girl’s dormitories, and a manual arts building. Classes were taught in blacksmithing, agriculture, carpentry, dressmaking, cooking, and housekeeping. As the twentieth century progressed, classes in technical subjects such as mechanical drawing and radio were added.
In 1950, the Hungerford School became a public school administered by the Orange County School Board. Old, original campus buildings were replaced by new buildings. Today, the school still occupies a large parcel of land in Eatonville, just on the east side of I-4.
City officials are demanding that the school district allow the local government to have a voice in any future sale of some 90 acres of district-owned land that once was part of the 300-acre Robert Hungerford Trust and now is home to Robert Hungerford Preparatory School.
The reason, they say: Many in Eatonville believe that when the trust conveyed the property and the school to the district in 1951 it was done under financial duress and false promises of creating a strong African-American public school to the detriment of the trust, the property and the community.
“The school board (at the time) really squeezed the trust. It tricked them,” explains Eatonville Mayor Anthony Grant. “This land has been used to the betterment of the communities around Eatonville. It has helped build up Maitland, Winter Park and Orlando’s I-4 corridor.”
Members of the still-active Robert Hungerford Chapel Trust, which provides college scholarships for African-American students, agree.
“We’re not pointing fingers, but it is time for the school board to do what is fair for the city of Eatonville and the trust,” says Cecil Allen, chairman of the trust.
A Note for Visiting Amateur Historians –
This is a study of “Negro Education” done in 1917 by the Department of the Interior, which lists state by state educational resources and schools available to black folks. It is a fascinating read of the struggle to get educational resources in this country. In the search bar, type in your state.