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.


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.


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 […]

How Newtown youths shaped the community’s legacy

Picture above: John Rivers in his 20s. He was assistant to Neil Humphrey Sr., the first Sarasota NAACP president, then succeeded Humphrey as leader of the organization. Posted Jun 27, 2016 at 12:01 AM By Vickie Oldham, Guest Columnist The recently completed “Newtown Alive” history report is filled with examples of the courage, dignity and determination of African-American residents and […]

Keeping Newtown Alive

Pictured above: Fannie McDugle after her oral history interview with Vickie Oldham. Newtown Conservation Historic District Project strives to preserve and celebrate legendary African-American community in Sarasota. By Amanda Smith   Black History Month is, above all, a celebration of the massive achievements by African Americans – and a recognition of the central role they played […]

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.