Save the Historic Robert Hungerford High School Property From Public School Board Sale

Save the Historic Robert Hungerford High School Property From Public School Board Sale

November 8, 2022
Petition to
OCPS Orange County Public School Board
Signatures: 3,332Next Goal: 5,000
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Why this petition matters

Started by 1887 First

Eatonville, FL is a significant part of black history in America as it was the first established Black Municipality in America, dating back to 1887. This historical landmark, located in northeast Orlando, gave black people the opportunity to live without being assaulted for their skin color. Eatonville was a true cultural landmark that allowed many southern blacks to thrive in life. This town has produced many greats such as Zora Neale Hurston, Norm Lewis, and NFL greats Deacon Jones and Ha-Ha Clinton Dix, to name a few. 

Eatonville's history is so great that it saddens and angers many citizens from generations to see that almost 300 acres of land were taken by Orange County School Board and sold for profit. 

The plan was to create a self-sustaining community where Black people could live and work without fear of violence or harassment. However, after World War II low attendance put the school in a financial bind and the Hungerford Trustees made quick decisions while under stress and offered the school and land to Orange County School Board for inclusion as a part of their $6 million school expansion plan. Nothing was written in stone and the Trustees verbally agreed to sell Orange County the school. However, the great Mary McLeod Bethune, a prominent educator, and civil rights activist, had other plans for the land. She proposed turning it into a preparatory school for Black students and using the remaining acreage for a dairy, chicken, and vegetable farm that would provide income for the school and eventually the entire community. When the School Board learned of her proposal, they immediately moved to deny her request and honor their original verbal offer with the Hungerford Trustees. This decision not only deprived Eatonville of a much-needed educational institution, but it also robbed us and Bethune Cookman of an economic opportunity to make history.

- Sourced from the Orlando Sentinel Article in the '50s. 

The School Board's deception continues to have ripple effects in Eatonville to this day. There were restrictions on the school property which stated the land was to be used for educational purposes only and the residents and town of Eatonville agreed to that promise.

In 1974 a Circuit Court judgment was entered which canceled the educational restrictions on the entire property except for that portion on which the Hungerford High school & elementary were located.

In 1978 The School Board attempted to sell by public bid all of the Hungerford properties outside the school sites. The properties were divided into tracts for advertising and bidding purposes. However, only one bid for appraised value was received for a small tract (1.1 acres) between l-4 and Wymore Road, which was sold for $37,000.

In 1980 The School Board turned around and sold another 10 acres of the land back to the Town of Eatonville for $100,000.00 and a year later they sold a 0.5-acre tract for $62,500.00 and another 4.5 acres were sold to the town of Eatonville for $20,000. The following year in 1982 approximately 91 acres of the land were sold to Orlando Industrial Properties for $1.1 Million. This is now an industrial area where Tesla stores its vehicles. 

In 2008 the School Board sold off a 5-acre tract to the Florida Department of Transportation for a retention pond for the I-4 Ultimate project for $6,442,900.00 - minus fees and costs.

Eatonville, Florida is a town that is known for being the first Black incorporated municipality in the United States that was exclusively Black-owned and operated. This is significant because it was a direct response to the continuous deception and mistreatment that Blacks were facing in regard to land ownership. Eatonville serves as a reminder that all revolutions are fought over land. We are now competent and educated enough to understand the injustice that took place 71 years ago, and continues to take place, we have a duty to protect our land. The fact that Eatonville still exists today is a testament to the strength and resilience of its people. It is a place where our history and culture can be celebrated, and where we can build a bright future for generations to come.

The sale of the Historic Robert Hungerford High School Property would be devastating for Eatonville. Not only would it mean the loss of a key piece of Eatonville's history, but it would also deprive the town of much-needed economic development. The land is currently under contract to be sold to a developer for $14 million. Of this amount, OCPS would receive $10 million and the Town of Eatonville would receive $4 million. Some politicians in the town argue that this money would be a valuable source of revenue for Eatonville, which is struggling to make ends meet. However, if the sale goes through, Eatonville will have lost something far more valuable: its history and its identity, and most importantly the land. There are concerned citizens and other people out there that would love the opportunity to help Eatonville grow and thrive economically as its own community. 

With Orlando being one of the most visited cities in the world, Eatonville plays a big role in that. Eatonville is home to a rich cultural history, and people from all over the world come to learn about and explore its unique significance. The town has a long and proud history, and its land is an important part of that history. Unfortunately, the last part of the town's land is currently under threat by Orange County School Board. A group of developers proposed to buy the land to build 292 mixed-used apartment units and name it Hungerford Park. The outcome of this massive development will displace the townspeople and erase Eatonville's history. We need your help to stop this from happening. We hope you will stand with us and sign our petition to help us get our land back and fight against economic injustice. Thank you for your support!

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Signatures: 3,332Next Goal: 5,000
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Decision Makers

  • Orange County Public School BoardOCPS