Known for its beaches, sunsets, golf courses and museums, Sarasota County in southwest Florida is a popular tourist destination. But one part of Sarasota not often spoken about is the Black history in the community. Through preservation, Black history in Sarasota is alive and can help educate visitors. Here are some places that tell the story of Black history in Sarasota County you can explore on your next visit.
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Black History in Sarasota County
Due to segregation and Jim Crow laws, African American residents of Sarasota County were banned from Lido Beach. Instead, African American children who wanted to cool off, had to sit in local waterholes filled with rainwater.
After several years of requesting a beach beach of their own, the African American leaders in Sarasota led a wade-in at Lido Beach in 1955. Wade-ins were similar to sit-ins, but done by entering the ocean or walking the beach. Sarasota beaches weren’t integrated til several years after the Civil Rights Act passed, but the wade-ins were a large part of giving African American residents in Sarasota County their rights.
To follow in the civil rights forbearers’ footsteps, visit the mural at Lido Beach that celebrates the car caravans that integrated Sarasota County beaches.
Newtown and Overtown
African American settlers have been in the Sarasota area since the early 18th century. The development of the city was due in large part to some of those settlers. The Black areas of town were Newtown and Overtown, and they were thriving. By the early 20th century, Sarasota’s two African American sections of town were home to 12 Black churches. These sections were home to Black lawyers, doctors, and teachers, along with prosperous businesses such as markets, grocery stores and social clubs.
A great way to see the area is to take the Newtown Alive trolley tour. Visiting a day the trolley isn’t running? Visit Sarasota provides the stops, allowing visitors to take a self-guided tour of significant locations in Sarasota’s Black history.
U.S. Civil Rights Trail
Spread through 15 states, the U.S. Civil Rights Trail explores the struggles of Black residents who worked and sometimes died to guarantee civil rights for all Americans. Recently added to the trail was Sarasota for the Lido Beach wade-ins. After seeing the Civil Rights Trail in Sarasota, you can explore the Florida Black Heritage Trail, which traces Black history throughout the Sunshine State.
After spending the day exploring Black history sites, head out for a bite to eat at a Black-owned restaurant. G’s Southern Kitchen in Sarasota is owned by Chef Gordon Gregory. Specializing in well prepared, eye-appealing Southern food, the menu items such as beef oxtails, mac n cheese bites, wings, fried fish and burgers, are also tasty and offer a twist on many favorites. Chef Charles Amherst offers a high-end dining experience at Chaz 51 Steakhouse in Nokomis. The menu includes ahi tuna, grilled shrimp, salads and a variety of steak cuts, including filet mignon and ribeye steak. Chez 51 also has a well-rounded wine list.
Where To Stay
When visiting Sarasota County, staying near the beach give you access to some of the best sunsets you’ll have ever seen. There are a wide variety of choices on Hotel.com and Vrbo. And be sure to read more about the city before you go.
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