READ ABOUT THE NEWTOWN PROJECT
This site is to celebrate the history, culture, community, and development of Newtown, located near downtown Sarasota. Our rich history comes from struggles and triumphs.
We hope you enjoy!
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. Visit our timeline to learn more.
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: school, church and home. The stories shared by Newtown and Overtown residents are “laugh out loud” funny. Some accounts may make you angry. We hope the content of the interviews will be a call to action that will revitalizes the community.
The Newtown neighborhood came into being on April 20, 1914, when the original Newtown Plat was filed with Manatee County. The original plat consisted of 96 building lots. Approximately 3 1/2 months later, on August 6, 1914, the First Addition to the Newtown Plat was filed, creating an additional 74 lots. Driven by market demand, what is known as Newtown today continued to grow as additional plats were created resulting in the robust and vibrant community that we know today.
For over 100 years, African American residents and secondary source documents and oral history interviews about the factors that led Blacks to Sarasota, their work, history, education, and social life has been available only in fragments here and there. We are proud that there is a companion document available to the public that compliments Annie M. McElroy’s book, But Your World and My World. And we are confident that the information contained in this report will be transformative and contribute to Newtown’s development in the next 100 years.