Newtown’s history

Dignity, Courage and Determination

Your search is over! Actually, the first step of your study about how Newtown developed and grew is done. A team of experts made your work easier. Historians, a cultural anthropologist, architectural historian and preservationist joined volunteers in combing the area’s archives and repositories to collect information about Newtown and Overtown’s history.

Residents shared their photographs, treasured memories and memorabilia.

Over 400 primary and secondary source documents about life in two of Sarasota’s oldest communities were found. We hope our work will increase your curiosity, raise more questions and spark new discoveries.

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Newtown’s Timeline

Newtown’s evolution over the last century

For over 100 years, African American residents played a major role in the development of Sarasota. Black labor cleared snake infested land for real estate developers, laid railroad ties, harvested celery, helped plat golf courses and labored in the homes of Sarasota’s influential power brokers cooking, cleaning, ironing and rearing children.

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Students volunteer for Newtown trolley tours

Read the latest about Newtown from the Herald Tribute http://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20170407/students-volunteer-for-newtown-trolley-tours  
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Civil Rights: In 1950s Sarasota, Shiela Sanders found her voice.

In 1950s Sarasota, Shiela Sanders found her voice. She sat in the back of the library. Amid stacks of papers and books, Sheila Sanders sat separated from other patrons of the Sarasota County Public Library. She was smart, competitive and stubborn. At age 5 she could read, write and tell time. Sanders was black. In […]
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Saving and celebrating Newtown’s stories

A new project will offer a picture of the community’s history from 1914-2014. There was a time when home remedies made from cobwebs, cotton balls and turpentine cured everything in Newtown. Back then, hospitals would turn their heads at black residents, but that didn’t stop the community from thriving. Nearly 100 African American-owned businesses dotted […]
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Local community leaders want to make Newtown a destination

Local community leaders want to make Newtown a destination When exploring Sarasota, there are a few iconic spots that come to mind, like Siesta Key, St. Armands and the long stretch of island that is Longboat. But there’s one place that’s missing, according to a contingent of community leaders from the city’s historically black neighborhood. […]
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‘You know how we do it in Newtown’: trolley tours bring community together

‘You know how we do it in Newtown’: trolley tours bring community together
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Newtown Alive Gives Residents a Taste of Newtown

The Newtown Alive project put on a block party to dedicate Newtown’s newly installed historic markers. Newtown Alive lead consultant Vickie Oldham had a lot to dance about at the Newtown Redevelopment Office on April 8. Residents, local officials and Newtown Alive volunteers gathered in the parking lot for the Taste of Newtown block party […]
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Newtown Honors its History

The Newtown Alive project revealed 15 markers that will mark historic locations throughout Newtown. Vickie Oldham said she was grateful to find tissues tucked inside the podium at the Robert L. Taylor Community Complex Feb. 18 during the unveiling of 15 historic markers that will be placed throughout Newtown as part of the Newtown Alive […]
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Historic markers will tell the story of Newtown community

15 markers will note Newtown’s development, schools and legacy of activism. NEWTOWN — Vickie Oldham feels like something is missing when she walks the streets where she grew up. She felt it when she strolled communities like St. Petersburg or Fort Pierce that honored the history of their black communities through legacy trails and monuments. […]
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Newtown community celebrates history, leaders

Historic markers celebrate the men and women who championed community’s residents, schools and businesses SARASOTA — One by one, Vickie Oldham called up members of the Newtown community from the crowd in the Robert L. Taylor Community Complex on Saturday morning, urging them to stand by the historical marker commemorating their impact. Here were members […]
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A Place We Call Home: Historic Markers Tell Story of Newtown History

By Linda Carson Posted by abc7 MySuncoast A project called “Newtown Alive” is now being put in place throughout Newtown. It guides you through Newtown’s history and introduces you to the trail blazers, the men and women who make Newtown a great place to call home. Fifteen large colorful signs with pictures are being installed in […]
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Historic Markers Tell Story of Newtown History

By Linda Carson Posted by abc7 MySuncoast A project called “Newtown Alive” is now being put in place It guides you thru Newtown’s history and introduces you to the trail blazers, the men and women who make Newtown “a great place to call home”. 15 large colorful signs with pictures are being installed in Newtown, marking […]
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Historic markers celebrate the men and women who championed community’s residents, schools and businesses

By Elizabeth Djinis Posted by the Heraldtribune SARASOTA — One by one, Vickie Oldham called up members of the Newtown community from the crowd in the Robert L. Taylor Community Complex on Saturday morning, urging them to stand by the historical marker commemorating their impact. Here were members of the community who had provided some of […]

Remembering Gwen Atkins

The community’s nurse transitioned. Woman of Faith. Powerful Witness. Public health nurse Gwendolyn Atkins walked door-to- door binding bruises, checking blood pressures, immunizing, soothing stress, encouraging, loving us. An angel among us.

Get the Book!

Newtown’s evolution over the last century

A new book about the history of Sarasota’s African American community is now available. Find out why early settlers came to the tiny fishing village, how they made a living, and why they organized a self-sustaining neighborhood. The book also describes their religious and social traditions, medical and military history and their emphasis on education. Whether you are new to Sarasota, a frequent visitor, an educator, historian or a longtime resident trying to connect the dots in your family tree, we believe the personal stories of courage, dignity and determination of Newtown and Overtown residents will be enlightening and inspiring.

The men and women fought for equal rights, triumphed over Jim Crow segregation, KKK intimidation, and vigilante violence. A diverse group of historians, community scholars, a cultural anthropologist, historical architect and preservationist and volunteer researchers united to present the glorious history of strivers who refused to give up.

Celebrate the history and cultural heritage of Newtown, one of Sarasota’s oldest communities. Enjoy our culture, history interviews and podcasts.