Selby Gardens' Lecture Journies Through History with 'Newtown Alive'



As part of its Botanical Briefings Lecture Series, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens recently presented Vickie Oldham, journalist and director of the historic preservation project "Newtown Alive." Panelists recounted Sarasota’s rich African-American history and shared personal, coming-of-age stories about the Selby and Payne families while working alongside groundskeepers on the properties, joyriding and running errands with “Uncle Bill,” scaling the wall surrounding the Christy and Anne Payne house, and watching the local Civil Rights movement unfold as teenagers. Guests heard how the Payne and Selby families became very close to their employees, very rare at that time in the South. They also learned that the idyllic experiences the individuals above enjoyed on the grounds of the Selby and Payne properties were not necessarily reflected by the African-American experience in the wider Sarasota community. The hour-long journey through history was filled with stories of courage, resilience, and determination by African-American pioneers on the Suncoast who rolled up their sleeves and began leading community transformation. The event also included a book sale and signing of Oldham's book, Newtown Alive: Courage, Dignity, and Determination.

Photo: Troy Nichols, Izetta Fields, panelist Carolyn Yancy Harper, Mae Dixon, Jeannie Perales, panelist Rev. Kenneth Waters, Evelyn Waters and moderator Vickie Oldham.

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