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Eatonville, Florida, the actual home town of Zora Neale Hurston, author of Their Eyes Were Watching God, was one of the first independent black communities in the southern United States. It is located in Orange County, Florida, approximately six miles south of Orlando. It was incorporated in 1889, shortly after the Civil War, and is portrayed in the novel as a place where black people formed the town's elite, as politicians, teachers, and businesspeople.
One important characteristic of the town was that rather than living a precarious existence as an oppressed minority, constantly dealing with reminders of slavery and being victims of discrimination, black people in the town were simply regular townsfolk, in an atmosphere that was not intensely racialized.
A less positive aspect of the town was the way that it developed intense social hierarchies, in which people discriminated on the basis of class and education, and there were strict expectations concerning how women of certain classes would behave. The tow also had a very patriarchal culture, with strong gender role expectations.
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