Black History Month events in Orlando kick off in late January and continue throughout February with commemorations and celebrations of African American history and culture available throughout 2024.
With limited-time exhibitions and live performances – along with year-round cultural attractions, tours through historic towns and landmarks, and a robust collection of Black-owned businesses – the destination offers a range of opportunities for locals and visitors to experience the inspiring, rich culture of the African American community.
Black History Month Events in Orlando
Central Florida locals and visitors can pay tribute to African American culture through exclusive musical performances, art exhibits and more. Some highlights include:
- The 35th Annual ZORA! Outdoor Festival of the Arts, (Jan. 26-28) featuring live performances, an international marketplace, arts and craft booths, and more, takes place in the historic town of Eatonville, the first African American incorporated municipality in the United States.
- The Hannibal Square Heritage Center is the permanent home for the “Heritage Collection: Photographs and Oral Histories of Winter Park,” which will unveil new images and oral histories collected by historian Peter Schreyer to depict life in Winter Park’s Hannibal Square in the mid-1990s. The new additions will be on view January 15 – June 1, 2024.
- The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts presents two performances by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (Jan. 30-31). The beloved modern dance company is celebrating its 65th season with special performances lovingly created by Amy Hall Garner, granddaughter of Alvin Ailey.
- The African Americans and the Arts Exhibition (Feb. 2 – March 31) at the Terrace Gallery at Orlando City Hall presents an opportunity for local artists to showcase African American history and celebrate the many lasting contributions Black Americans have had on visual arts, performing arts, literature, film, music and cultural movements.
- The Orange County Regional History Center’s Black History Month commemoration will include History Alive: Bessie Coleman Aviation Adventure (Feb. 3), a special tribute to America’s first Black and Native American woman pilot and her impact on Central Florida’s aviation history.
- The Sanford Jazz Ensemble’s Black History Month Concert (Feb. 11) at the historic Ritz Theater at Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center in Sanford will showcase musical genres like Motown and classic jazz, and celebrate acclaimed African American musicians such as Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, The 4 Tops, The Temptations, Michael Jackson, Earth Wind & Fire and more.
- Timucua Amplifies Black Voices is a three-day event (Feb. 16 – 18) at the Timucua Arts Foundation in downtown Orlando’s SoDo District that will offer performances by jazz musician Solomon Jaye, percussionist Britton Rene Collins, singer Jarred Amstrong Trio, The DeAndre Lettsome Quartet and singer Brandon Martin, and conclude with the Authentic Selves Poetry and Open Mic Night.
- Who’s Bad: The Ultimate Michael Jackson Experience (Feb. 16) comes to House of Blues Orlando. The musical act, performed by the longest-running Michael Jackson cover band, features songs from the expansive catalogue of the unrivaled King of Pop.
Year-Round African American Cultural Attractions
Beyond Black History Month, Orlando offers opportunities to learn about African American culture and local history throughout the year.
- Just outside the tourism districts, the historic town of Eatonville – home to celebrated author Zora Neale Hurston – was one of the country’s first self-governing African American communities. Today, it honors Hurston’s memory with the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts (aka The Hurston) and the annual ZORA! Festival (Jan. 7 – Jan. 28) with other events throughout the year, including HATitude Cultural Flair (Oct. 19) and Gathering & Gabbing Zora Neale Hurston Book Club (Feb. 17, March 16 & May 18). The Hurston also displays work by legendary and emerging artists of African descent.
- The only Commercial National Registered Historic District in Orlando, Parramore is Orlando’s oldest and largest African American neighborhood with a diverse collection of historic buildings like the Wells’ Built Hotel, now the Wells’ Built Museum of African American History and Culture, dedicated to preserving the memory of Orlando’s African American heritage with Civil Rights artifacts and memorabilia.
- The Orange County Regional History Center features a permanent African American history exhibit highlighting the triumphs and tragedies of African Americans in Central Florida’s past, along with luminous paintings of Florida’s Highwaymen, a group of acclaimed African American landscape artists.
- A community founded for black families in 1881, Historic Hannibal Square is home to the Hannibal Square Heritage Center, which welcomes visitors to explore the district’s origins and offers guided walking tours of the historic landmarks of “West Winter Park,” describing the hardships and the triumphs of the African American community from the 1900s to the present. Visitors can also experience small-business shopping, free yoga, food and music during the SOKO Marketplace every Saturday morning, where proceeds support the development of culturally relevant programming for the historic African American community of Hannibal Square.
- Visitors and locals can join Juneteenth (June 19) celebrations throughout Orlando, particularly in Eatonville and Hannibal Square. Also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day and Emancipation Day, Juneteenth commemorates the official end of slavery in the United States.
Black-Owned Restaurants and Businesses Around Orlando
With an exploding food scene, Orlando is home to a multitude of Black-owned restaurants offering flavors across various cuisines – from traditional to contemporary and beyond, along with locally owned businesses with specialized services.
- BBQ and southern food fans can dine at Orlando Famous Pete’s BBQ in Downtown Orlando on the weekends and Brick & Spoon in Maitland. For seafood or wings, visitors can support Big Lou’s Single Wing Express in Downtown Orlando; Stonington’s Fried Shrimp in Metro West and Altamonte Springs; and Mad Crab Seafood & Wings in Eatonville. Chicken Fire in Orlando specializes in Nashville-style hot chicken.
- For delicious Carribean-inspired eats, foodies can enjoy Mark’s Jamaican Bar & Grill or Island Thyme Carribean Grille in East Orlando, or Oley’s Kitchen & Smokehouse in Downtown Orlando.
- Those looking for soul food can visit Nikki’s Place and P&D Soul Food Kitchen in Downtown Orlando, and Soul Food Fantasy in Eatonville.
- For a healthier kick, there’s Vitality Bowls in the Dr. Phillips area. And for a sweeter option, head to downtown Orlando for custom flavors from the doughnut bar at Pattie Lou’s Donuts or the award-winning Sister Honey’s serving all kinds of sugary delights, including pies, cookies and pastries.
- Other Black-owned eateries include East Orlando’s Streetwise Urban Food – serving urban favorites in a family-friendly, casual atmosphere – and Downtown Orlando’s The District GastroBar – paying homage to old world American taste and cuisine – where legendary musicians like Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles and B.B. King performed at the South Street Casino that once stood nearby.
- The Pretty Peacock Paperie specializes in custom stationery and invitations in Winter Park, while the Naked Bar Soap Co. offers all-natural bath and body care products made from sustainable ingredients. Bloom in Glory is a full-service floral design company.
NOTE: Visitors to Orlando from outside of Florida should be aware that the NAACP has issued a travel advisory for the state noting, and warning, that under its current governor, Ron DeSantis, Florida has “engaged in an all-out attack on Black Americans, accurate Black history, voting rights, members of the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants, women’s reproductive rights, and free speech, while simultaneously embracing a culture of fear, bullying, and intimidation by public officials.”