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History no longer divisive

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This week's 9th annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities is another feather in the cap of Preserve the Eatonville Community Inc., the nonprofit group that formed 10 years ago to combat a road-widening that would have torn the heart from the historic community and has since become its most visible champion. Yet, still trying to emerge from PEC's shadow, the Town of Eatonville last week also began its own push to market its history with an exhibit that puts Eatonville's new museum and historic preservation consultant front and center. "Looking Back Forward: Eatonville in Context," a collection of 31 photographs drawn from the Orange County Historical Museum and Florida State Archives, shows the faces of African-American life from the Civil War through civil rights. It was compiled by consultant Anthony Knight, who sees the exhibit as "a primer to start the mind thinking," and the first of many displays he hopes to oversee in Eatonville's new municipal complex. Though joined on certain projects now, the town and PEC's N.Y. Nathiri often have locked horns over promoting America's oldest incorporated black town, and some chafe at the credit Nathiri receives for exercising tactics they portray as arm-twisting. But as the town taps into the newfound heritage tourism that Hurston and Eatonville draw -- and as joint plans to build a museum advance -- Mayor Anthony Grant says the split is behind everyone. Now, he says, "We need to get in the same car and drive down the same road."

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