HIS 490 - History Capstone (Spring 2020)

Hannibal’s Resilience: The Fight Against Gentrification in West Winter Park

Headline from a 2016 article in the Orlando Sentinel

The name, Hannibal, derives as a tribute to the Carthaginian general who led the Carthage military against the Romans in the Second Punic War. Widely considered throughout history as a great military mind, Hannibal demonstrated resilience in the face of his lighter skinned, Mediterranean foes. As tribute to the triumphs of the Carthaginian Empire under the leadership of Hannibal, the establishment of the historically African American neighborhood surrounding the Westside of the predominantly white city of Winter Park, Florida, bared his name.

Hannibal Square, established in 1881, has demonstrated its own version of resilience in the face of adversity. Most recently, threats of gentrification and displacement jeopardize the community’s longstanding history and tradition. Residents within the community have fought for the last five decades for the preservation and restoration of their traditions and culture, as the neighborhood has served to better the community through its residents’ public and civil service to the city and surrounding areas in Greater Orlando.

Hannibal Square and West Winter Park are fighting against the same problems that face African American communities across the country. Gentrification and the displacement of minority communities in the United States is engrained into the foundation of the country’s emphasis of Manifest Destiny. Gentrification is product of a colonial mindset; the mentality that the needs and space of one community are not as valuable as your own. In this case, the City of Winter Park has failed to protect the needs of Hannibal Square, West Winter Park, and the African American community; demonstrating that the expansion of gentrification, high-income neighborhoods, and boutique businesses are more important than the residents of one of the oldest neighborhoods in area.   

Hannibal Square and West Winter Park’s struggle against gentrification is a local example of a nationwide problem, and the steps that communities are taking to fight back. Once considered a low-income, crime ridden neighborhood in Winter Park, Hannibal Square has displayed resilience in the community’s emphasis on restoration and revitalization, rather than total redevelopment. Organizations like the Hannibal Square Community Land Trust highlight the efforts of community members and local activists who are interested in providing affordable housing for the residents of the area, some of which have lived in the neighborhood for generations.

The Westside of Winter Park was originally founded in 1881 to house free blacks who served as agricultural workers, domestic laborers, and railroad operators. These individuals have faced hardship, exclusion, segregation, discrimination, and violence solely based on the color of their skin. As time progresses, and society with it, the story of the perseverance of communities like Hannibal Square should not go unseen, even as they continue to face economic and structural hardship with gentrification.

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