How integration changed Sarasota forever: A Conversation at the Crocker

Newtown Before and After Integration
Carolyn Mason photo

Sarasota County Commissioner and former Sarasota Mayor Carolyn Mason will lead the panel discussion.

A discussion that explores the ramifications of integration on Newtown school life and how integration changed forever the social, business and community structure in Sarasota’s African American close-knit community. Told by those who lived through it.

Four people – one white and three African Americans – gather to  participate in a personal, audience-interactive panel discussion about integration on Tuesday, November 13, at the Crocker Memorial Church, 1260 12th Street (Pioneer Park, between Cocoanut Ave. and Tamiami Trail), Sarasota. The discussion starts at 7 p.m. Community welcome. Historical Society members and students free; guests, $10. The Gift Shop and social porches open at 6 p.m. and tours of the Bidwell-Wood House and the Church will be offered.

          Sarasota County Commissioner and former Sarasota Mayor Carolyn Mason lead the panel which includes Dr. Edward James, host of ABC 7 Black Almanac and longtime community activist; Dorothye G. Smith, retired educator in the Sarasota County School System and Lou Ann R. Palmer, former Mayor and City Commissioner, and retired educator in the Sarasota County School System.

“The morning that desegregation in Sarasota touched my life in 1967 was frankly terrifying for me”

remembers Carolyn Mason, who went from the security of Booker School to Sarasota High School. “I was leaving my friends, teachers whom we knew not just from the classroom but from church and family gatherings and I was leaving the security and support my neighborhood. There was a lot of anxiety for us students and the adjustment wasn’t easy. Lots of us resented being taken from our school in our senior year. But, this was the new world and we were plunged into it.”
          This panel discussion, seen through the eyes of a then-high school student, a community activist, and two educators in the school system at this time, will be a candid discussion about desegregation and how it affected Sarasota’s African American community then and now, as well as the community at large.”
          Newtown Before and After Integration is the second in a series of year-long panel discussions. Organized by the Historical Society of Sarasota County and sponsored by SARASOTA Magazine, Conversations at The Crocker events highlight specific aspects of Sarasota’s past and examines pivotal events and people who have influenced today’s Sarasota.
          All Conversations take place at The Crocker Memorial Church and proceeds from this panel discussion series help to maintain the Historical Society’s two heritage properties at Pioneer Park – the Bidwell-Wood House (1882, Sarasota’s oldest private residence) and the Crocker Memorial Church (1901). Docent led tours of both buildings are available an hour before each of the Conversations at The Crocker events. Chairs of Conversations at The Crocker are Lynn Harding and Marsha Fottler. President of the Historical Society of Sarasota County is Howard Rosenthal. Site Manager is Linda Garcia.
          Plan now to attend the upcoming Conversations: December 11, Brother in the Shadow: Charles Ringling with moderators Ron McCarty and Deborah Walk; January 15, How We Became an Arts Colony with moderator Kay Kipling; February 12: Pay Dirt – How We Became a Real Estate Destination with moderator Bob Plunket;  March 12, Why We Look The Way We Do: Architecture with moderator Harold Bubil; April 9, A City of the Performing Arts with moderator Howard Millman.

2 thoughts on “How integration changed Sarasota forever: A Conversation at the Crocker

  1. Pingback: Thanks, Sarasota News Leader! | Historical Society of Sarasota County

  2. This was one of the most interesting Conversations so far this season! This Frank and Open Discussion about Integration and Race Relations in Sarasota was a real eye-opener for many of us who weren’t here in the ’60’s, when the schools were finally ordered to integrate. Interesting also was the theory that most African Americans in Newtown, are STILL hesitant to cross the” line of demarcation”, known to them as Fruitville Rd. We could do much at our historic location to blend our cultures more closely, I am proud that our Program Chairmen did not wait till February’s Black History month, to bring us this important, neighborly Conversation and I hope they’ll have more talks that are as stimulating as this one was.

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