History Hidden in Plain Sight

Minaal Arain, Staff

As technology has advanced, information can be found anywhere in a matter of seconds. However, as new content gets published, older yet significant headlines get lost in chaos, and before we know it, a part of our history has been hidden without us even knowing. Today, it has become more important than ever to stay up to date, but it remains equally significant to fill in the gaps in our knowledge that we may not have considered previously. Like many other areas in the world, Central Florida is not immune to lost history. However, there are many places in Orlando that showcase a small glimpse of this hidden past. While none of the places are groundbreaking rediscoveries, they are areas that many have passed without knowing their significance both literally and figuratively. These locations can help visitors learn a little more about the various people who make up our community in Orlando.

(Above) The second floor at the history center is dedicated to African American history in the Greater Orlando area. This section presents about what the Civil War was like in Florida, and moves into events in the Reconstruction Era, giving viewers perspective on how life changed for African Americans after the Civil War, as well as the many difficulties they
faced after finally being free.
(Above) While there isn’t an established area to learn more about Asian American culture in the Greater Orlando area, the cultures and communities are unignorable. For example, Mills 50 is a neighborhood where many Asian Americans have settled and brought elements of their culture, most prominently, through food. Additionally, murals celebrating their cultures are seen all across the neighborhood. Mills 50 can offer a unique perspective of the Asian American experience in Florida. Another area people can go to is Sam Flax in the Little Saigon district of Downtown Orlando. This
region is also filled with many beautiful murals inspired by Asian American culture.
(Above) Here in Downtown Orlando, the Orange County Regional History Center offers a collection of multiple exhibits that showcases Central Florida history. The history center is four floors high with each floor representing a differing time period. Visitors work their way down the center, starting with Native American culture with artifacts from when the Spanish first made contact with them in the late 1400s and early 1500s on the fourth floor, moving visitors closer to modern day events on the first floor. Each exhibit concisely reports significant events and is strategically placed for visitors to gain a complete understanding. Besides information, the center displays historic documents, pieces of art, photographs, along some with interactive displays that attract kids and adults alike.
(Above) The African American exhibit on the second floor has the Art of the Highwaymen. During the Jim Crow era in the south, it was difficult for many African American artists to prosper, so they would go to small towns
along highways to sell their paintings while trying to avoid local law enforcement. Artists were often self- taught artists who went unknown in the 1950s and 1960s, but their work gained attention in the late 20th
century and early 21st century.
(Above) The Wells’Built Hotel, founded by Dr. William Monroe Wells in 1926, offered African Americans a place to stay in the segregated south. Dr. Wells cared for many patients with various conditions. Jackie Robinson and Ella Fitzgerald have even stayed there. Now, Wells’Built is a museum near Downtown Orlando. It is only 10 minutes away from the historically Black town, Eatonville, which holds many more educational and culture sites, such as the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts.
(Above) The fourth floor of the Orange County Regional History Center starts with exhibits that highlight what Native American life has been like in Florida throughout the past few centuries. This particular section presents the impact of the Seminole Wars and how life is like for Seminoles in Florida today. Additionally, handmade masks and dolls, along with other cultural artifacts are displayed. All photos by Minaal Arain. (All photos by Minaal Arain. )