Sarasota News Leader

01/18/2013

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LOSING HISTORY The new history wall in Fredd Atkins Park in Newtown awaits the reinstallation of plaques. Photos by Robert Hackney CITY OF SARASOTA STAFF HAS A LOT OF EXPLAINING TO DO ABOUT THE LOST COMMEMORATIVE WALL IN FREDD ATKINS PARK IN NEWTOWN By Stan Zimmerman City Editor There was a community-wide effort in 2005 to celebrate the African-American history of Sarasota. Neighborhoods on the north and south sides of the city raised $25,000 as the matching share for a $75,000 grant from the William and Marie Selby Foundation. The money was used, among other things, to build a "history wall" in Fredd Atkins Park on the southwest corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Washington Boulevard. Plaques were cast in bronze to commemorate notable locals who helped shape local African-American history. The Newtown Redevelopment Office, the (now-defunct) Front Porch, local banks and neighborhoods made donations. Northern Trust, for example, supported creation of a memorial to the area's first teacher. The Coalition of City Neighborhood Associations urged members to participate by buying memorial bricks in the walkway. So imagine the chagrin of local leaders (and eventually bankers and foundations) when they discovered the plaques were gone at Christmastime. Not only were the plaques missing, but tile work on the "history wall" was gone, too. Did scrap metal thieves strip the history from the wall? Did it end up in the American melting pot?

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