By Zafirios Daglaris |
May 1, 2019

Associate Professor of History and Director of Public History Dr. Scot French co-authored an article based on his research for a local museum exhibit and larger book project, in the Spring 2019 issue of Winter Park Magazine.

The article, which includes review notes and supplementary text by editor Randy Noles, details two related exhibits which explore African American life in two local communities: Maitland and Eatonville. In the article, French notes that the exhibits highlight the close historical connections between the two communities, while recovering the oft-neglected, “unmarked” history of African Americans in Maitland from the 1870s to the present.

Maitland and African American Experiences Then & Now: J. Andre Smith and Jane Turner, curated by Rangsook Yoon, is on display at the Maitland Art Center. The exhibit explores, in part, the visual art of J. Andre Smith, who founded the Maitland Art Center in the 1930s. Smith’s depictions of local African Americans were often framed through an “outsider” perspective, with the visual effect of creating distance between subjects in the paintings and the viewer. The exhibit also features works by Jane Turner, a local resident of Maitland. Turner’s works create an interesting contrast to Smith’s by depicting members of the local African American community in ways which give credit to their unique experiences and contributions.

Maitland and African American Experiences: Marked, Unmarked, Remembered, curated by French, is on display at the Maitland Historical Museum. As French notes, this exhibit examines the social history of Maitland and surrounding communities like Eatonville. Included in the exhibit are reproduced images taken during folklorist and novelist Zora Neale Hurston’s 1935 song-collecting trip to Eatonville.

French documents Maitland’s and Eatonville’s subtle shared histories, including the concurrent activities of Hurston and Smith in the area. Although there is no known record of Hurston and Smith having met, French notes that Smith was living in Maitland when Hurston visited Eatonville in 1935, and that Smith later created an etching, “A Sketch of Folklore Village, Eatonville, Florida,” seemingly inspired by Hurston’s work.

French concludes the article with a description of the “hidden” African American neighborhoods explored in the Marked, Unmasked, Remembered exhibit. French quotes a local resident who discusses the relationship of Maitland’s “Medlock Quarters” neighborhood to the city of Eatonville, noting that public services to the neighborhood “came from Eatonville.”


These two exhibits are located just a short walk from one another within the Art & History Museums – Maitland complex. French invites those interested in the subtle, complex, and compelling histories of Maitland’s and Eatonville’s African American communities to visit. The exhibits each run through May 12.