EATONVILLE, Fla. — Neighbors and some town leaders in Eatonville want to stop the last 100 acres of a historical piece of land from being sold to developers.
The Hungerford School was founded in 1889 as the first school for African Americans in Central Florida. It was given to Orange County Public Schools in the ‘50s and now people in the town are working with the Southern Poverty Law Center with hopes of getting it back so that the town and its people get the benefits.
Some people who live in Eatonville say they feel the land was wrongfully taken from them when a judge decided during segregation in 1951 that the Black students didn’t need the school anymore.
Julian Johnson and his grassroots organization, 1887 First, say town members have been fighting to get ownership of the Hungerford land to Eatonville for decades.
“If you have to control the land, you can control a lot of things, you create revenue,” he said.
Johnson gave Channel 9 a document he received from Orange County Public Schools that claims the circuit court awarded the property to the district in 1951, and that all 300 acres had to be used for educational purposes.
The acres are now filled with car lots, the I-4 interchange and a data collection center.
“They sold off all the land and made millions of dollars. They economically deprived the town,” Johnson said.
Channel 9 reached out to Orange County Public Schools multiple times about the land ownership and how it’s been sold. A spokesperson confirmed the district owns the land but said they couldn’t comment because of the pending sale to sovereign land company.
The district plans to turn the land into housing units, restaurants and businesses.
Johnson said the issue isn’t development, its outsiders owning the benefits of Eatonville’s possible growth, wiping out its history and pushing out its people.
“We want the land back from Orange County,” Johnson said.
There’ll be more than 300 units on the land when the development is complete. It is expected to be sold March 31.
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