Lewis Colson Dedication Garden
Esplanade Park - 7900 NW 187th Terrace
Lewis Colson was the first black settler to arrive in
Sarasota in the year 1884. Colson was a former slave, who moved to Sarasota
after he was freed to help Richard E. Paulson, an engineer for the Florida
Mortgage and Investment Company, in surveying the town of Sarasota. Colson
Remained in Sarasota for the remainder of his life contributing to community
development in many ways. He started the first black community in Sarasota,
where he helped several black families establish their life in the little town.
He went on to help establish the first black Baptist church by selling land to
the church trustees. He became a pastor and serviced the weekly Sunday church. The
Bethlehem Baptist Church was a blessing for the black community. The community then grew into a thriving
residential and business district, better known as Overtown.
Colson lived in a time period where racial prejudice and injustice was
prevalent. Despite his rough history as a slave, Colson still dedicated most of
his live to being a community activist. He strived to give back to the people,
especially the black community. After Colson passed, his dedication to
establishing a successful black community is still prevalent. He gave many
people a place to establish a home and form long last relationships with people
who were all in the same position. His passion, dedication and preservation make
him a great community activist and a role model for the black community. Sarasota may not have been the home or where
it is today if it was not for his hope of giving the black community a new
place to call home.
Photo Credit: Felix Pinard (Sarasota County History Center)