Locals who participated in the beach caravans of the 1950s celebrated with their families at Lido Beach
Locals who participated in the beach caravans of the 1950s celebrated with their families at Lido Beach
Living members of the original beach caravans and their families return to Lido Beach
Living members of the original beach caravans and their families return to Lido Beach
The 40th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast & Awards, where the announcement was made
The 40th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast & Awards, where the announcement was made
Two trolleys awaiting guests for the beach caravan re-enactment
Two trolleys awaiting guests for the beach caravan re-enactment
Trolley riders shared songs and stories on their way to Lido Beach
Trolley riders shared songs and stories on their way to Lido Beach
Trolley riders on Lido Key, approaching the public beach entrance
Trolley riders on Lido Key, approaching the public beach entrance
Participants gathered near the beach segregation historical marker at Lido Beach to reflect
Participants gathered near the beach segregation historical marker at Lido Beach to reflect
Church Architecture in Newtown - Historical Sign and Display
Church Architecture in Newtown - Historical Sign and Display

Sarasota's Newtown Community Joins the U.S. Civil Rights Trail as Southernmost Attraction

Newtown, Sarasota’s historic African-American community, will now be recognized nationally for its trailblazing civil rights activism.

Newtown’s proud history of advancing African American civil rights and equality will now be recognized nationally as an attraction for others to visit and appreciate.

A new site known as the “Newtown African American Heritage Trail” is the newest and southernmost point of the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, which highlights over 100 attractions across 15 states.

The U.S. Civil Rights Trail is a collection of churches, courthouses, schools, museums and other landmarks primarily in the Southern states where activists challenged segregation in the 1950s and 1960s to advance social justice. The people, locations and destinations included in the Civil Rights Trail provide a way for families, travelers and educators to experience history firsthand and tell the story of how “what happened here changed the world.”

The announcement of its addition was made in Sarasota, Florida by Vickie Oldham of Newtown Alive! during the Dr. Martin Luther King Day Celebration Breakfast on January 21, 2019 in cooperation with Visit Sarasota County (VSC) and the MLK Celebration Committee.

The Newtown African American Heritage Trail attraction highlights the civil rights history of Sarasota’s African-American community Newtown, especially focused on the 1950s and 1960s efforts of Newtown residents to desegregate Sarasota’s beaches. These efforts included car caravans from Newtown to Lido Beach for peaceful protests called “wade-ins,” an attempt to force beach integration.

To commemorate the addition of Newtown African American Heritage Trail to the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, VSC and Newtown Alive! organized, facilitated and led a reenactment of the beach caravans and wade-ins following the MLK Day Celebration Breakfast. Two trolleys packed with more than 70 passengers – including some who rode the original caravans, their descendant and county leaders – rode from Newtown to Lido Beach. To walk along the shoreline and into the water as their courageous predecessors did decades ago, and years before beaches were integrated.

The original “wade-ins” drew media attention and opened an early front nationally in the fight for equal rights years before widely-known victories of the 1960s. The wade-ins, modeled after lunch counter sit-ins, coupled with activists’ attendance at city and county commission meetings moved the needle toward beach access at a time when less than two miles of Florida’s 2,000 miles of beaches were open for use by African-Americans. It wasn’t until the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 that Sarasota County beaches were fully integrated.