Historical Marker

First Black Community

Location: Central Ave. and Boulevard of the Arts,, Sarasota, FL

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Sarasota History - First Black Community photo

The first Black settler here was Lewis Colson who, in 1884, assisted in surveying the Town of Sarasota. By 1886, several Black families were living here. In 1899 Lewis and Irene Colson organized the Bethlehem Baptist Church. Later, F.H. Haynes, C.H. Murphy, Campbell Mitchell and Leonard Reid organized the A.M.E. Church. In the early days school was taught by Josie Washington in her home. In 1912 a public school was established with Wright Bush, Henry Clark, Elbert Clark, J.P. Carter, Campbell Mitchell, John Mays, John Woods, Ed Carmichael, and J.H. Glover as trustees. Emma Booker was the principal of this school for many years.

The Black community grew as businessmen, fishermen, physicians, nurses, teachers, farmers, contractors, carpenters, laborers, drivers, masons, blacksmiths, laundry workers and railroad workers made this area their home. Along Sixth Street were pressing clubs and lunch rooms, meat and fish markets, grocery and general merchandise stores and a variety of other businesses providing goods and services for the growing community. From the time of this community's founding, the Black residents living and working here have played a vital role in the development of both the City and the County of Sarasota.

Dedicated in 1985 by the Sarasota County Historical Commission

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