From historic galleries and a heritage trail to longtime restaurants, Black theater and more, Sarasota’s historic neighborhood is a can’t-miss for locals and visitors
SARASOTA, Fla. (Feb, 4, 2022) – Black History Month has arrived, Sarasota’s Newtown neighborhood offers locals and visitors the chance to experience African-American cuisine, art, culture, worship and more, in a community dating back more than 100 years.
In the early 1900s, Jim Crow laws segregated Sarasota’s African American residents, who lived in Overtown, close to downtown; in 1914, they were pressed to move into a subdivision called Newtown. Despite segregation, racism and menial jobs, residents faced the stiff challenges with resilience, determination and an indomitable spirit. They educated children, developed their own business district, built churches and organized social activities with family and faith at the core.
Today, Newtown is bustling with a mix of treasured historic sites located in Sarasota with it’s modern and beloved dining, shopping, art galleries/museums and more:
Newtown Heritage Trail, Greater Newtown Historical Gallery and African American Cultural Resource Center
- Part of the Newtown Alive initiative, the Newtown Heritage Trail features 15 historic markers to honor African American pioneers who triumphed over oppression, from early settlers to activists, as well as historic architecture and business districts.
- A mix between a time capsule, museum and educational exhibit, the Greater Newtown Historical Gallery is bursting with the history of Newtown, from proclamations to family photos, artifacts, newspaper clippings and beyond. Compiled by Jetson Grimes, a pillar of the Newtown community who was born less than 30 years after its inception, the gallery showcases the Black experience in the iconic Sarasota neighborhood.
- Additionally, the African American Cultural Resource Center, located in the North Sarasota Library, includes books, periodicals, videos, photographs, art and posters, all available for visitors to explore Black culture in Newtown and beyond. The Center is open to researchers, teachers, students and visitors alike.
Food for, and from, the soul
- Each Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Newtown Farmer’s Market at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park is bustling with visitors and vendors, featuring fresh local produce, handmade goods and more. As an additional service to ensure local, healthy produce is as accessible to the community as possible, the Market delivers to customers within a mile of the park and, upon request, will pre-cut fruits and vegetables. The Market also hosts special events throughout the year, including the upcoming popular Big Momma’s Collard Green festival, Saturday, October 15, 2022.
- Beyond the Market, there is no shortage of great food and great chefs in the Newtown neighborhood:
- At Stroke’s Seafood, serving lunch and dinner daily and breakfast on weekdays, enjoy classic seafood plates like shrimp, fish, mussels, crab and more alongside sides such as grits, fried okra, yellow rice, sausage and more. Stroke’s also offers plenty of options for those craving dishes more on the “turf” side, including wings, burgers, steak, salads and more.
- A staple of Newtown for decades, Town Hall Restaurant & Lounge on MLK Way serves diner-style items for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
- Pop on down to Miss Susie’s Newtown Kitchen’s delicious food truck, who recently partnered with Newtown Alive to serve the community and trolley guests for tasteful lunches following the Newtown Heritage Walk. The food truck launched in 2020, while the business awaits the completion of the full-time restaurant on MLK Way.
The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) is the only professional black theatre found on Florida’s west coast. The renowned WBTT develops and trains African American artists while providing an artistic voice to the black experience. Visitors are invited to attend award-winning musicals, comedies and dramas that bring diversity and inclusiveness to the region’s cultural landscape. Many local African American artists who have trained with the company have moved to national touring companies, TV shows and even major record companies.
Faith and worship
Visitors are welcome to observe or join in as hands are held high in joyous, soulful celebration. Newtown is home to many churches, including:
- Greater Hurst Chapel AME Church, considered the heartbeat of Newtown
- Bethlehem Bible Church
- New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church
- Truvine Missionary Baptist Church
- Trinity Christian Fellowship Center
- Light of the World International Church
About Sarasota County
Situated on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Sarasota County welcomes more than 2.7 million visitors annually. Within its 725 square miles, the county serves up a diverse menu of cultural and recreational activities and attractions, including award-winning dining, world-class fine arts and performing arts, professional and amateur sports and the area’s circus heritage. Vacationers can enjoy city life in downtown Sarasota, revisit old Florida in Englewood and Venice, enjoy some of the best beaches in the U.S. on Siesta Key and Longboat Key, or play in North Port’s many parks and waterways. Sarasota County is perhaps best known for its 35 miles of pristine coastline in addition to 6 barrier islands, delivering options for beach getaways that are unrivaled almost anywhere else in the U.S., including Siesta Beach, named the No. 1 beach in the country and No. 11 in the world in TripAdvisor’s 2020 Travelers’ Choice Awards – the third time it has held the national title. To learn more, visit www.visitsarasota.com. Connect via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.
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