Meet the Oral History Interviewees

Newtown is a special African American community that grew out of another community. Overtown was the first enclave or neighborhood established by African American people in Sarasota, Florida. Three institutions were most important: schools, churches and family.

Most of the early African American setters and later arrivals came to Sarasota looking for a way to better their lives. They faced the challenges of racism and segregation at the onset. They worked menial jobs, but found a way to provide for their families.

Clearly, an indomitable spirit emerged out of their struggle. A strong faith brought them through many challenges. Initially church services were held in homes, until sanctuaries were constructed.

Children were educated in churches that doubled as places where residents exercised control over their own destiny.

The residents depended on each other for medical and social services by establishing self-help, social and benevolent organizations.

Each resident interviewed describes the nurturing that occurred in their close knit community.


Redevelopment efforts are now underway to beautify streets, provide more affordable housing, preserve historic buildings and build bridges to other Sarasota neighborhoods. Some of the oral history interviews are “laugh out loud” funny. Other accounts will make you angry and there are times when you’ll tear up.

We hope the content of the interviews will be a call to action that will revitalize the community.

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