Faces of Eatonville: Johanne Rahaman documents joy and self-sufficiency in Florida’s black communities
The 2,200 residents of Eatonville are proud of their history. Their most famous dweller, author Zora Neale Hurston, cherished the town, and referred to it time and time again in her Harlem Renaissance writings; she credited her formative years to the time she spent in Eatonville.
Today, the place Hurston once described as "a city of five lakes, three croquet courts, three hundred brown skins, three hundred good swimmers, plenty guavas, two schools and no jailhouse" is shrinking. Bordered by bustling Winter Park suburbs, an expanding Maitland, and the fringes of OBT, the community, which has a poverty rate twice the national average, is in danger of disappearing into the surrounding landscape.
Although Hurston is long gone, it's her legacy that drew Miami-based, Trinidad-raised photographer Johanne Rahaman to the township in her own mission to preserve the historic identity of Eatonville. Rahaman is the photographer behind the archival series Black Florida, a modern photography archive that documents the day-to-day lives of Florida's black population.
"Zora Neale Hurston is the standard-bearer for a lot of what I do," she tells Orlando Weekly. "Eatonville is very special to me. It is a beacon for blackness. You can't talk about black self-sufficiency in America without talking about Eatonville." Rahaman's work is striking in its intimate portrayal of Florida's black working-class communities. She travels the state, seeking out predominantly black communities in order to shed light on a population that is hidden in plain sight.