Learn about Newtown Alive

March 5, 2018
Vickie Oldham

Vickie Oldham enjoys good storytelling. She is foremost a journalist. Presently, Oldham is spearheading a groundbreaking historic preservation project called “Newtown Alive.” It began as an initiative to trace the 100-year history of the African American community of Newtown; but has quickly expanded into a rebranding effort that is causing residents and visitors to take a second look at the neighborhood through the lens of history. 

A comprehensive 350-page research report was completed and later reformatted into a book. Other Newtown Alive products include 15 historic markers placed in important locales that tell stories about the resilience of Sarasota’s African American pioneers. There is a documentary short, a guided trolley tour led by high school students, a traveling exhibition, a brochure with a map of marker locations, the newtownalive.org website, a mobile application, videotaped oral history interviews, an inventory of 150 historic structures and a speakers’ bureau. 

In May, the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation honored Oldham’s team with an outstanding achievement award. The group is pursuing a National Register of Historic Landmarks designation for the Newtown Conservation Historic District.

Oldham’s propensity for asking questions is the impetus that led to another African American history project. In 2004, she spearheaded the “Looking for Angola” project. Multi-disciplinary in its approach, archaeologists, anthropologists and historians are piecing together the story of a little known and almost forgotten 1800’s Black Seminole settlement that existed in the Tampa Bay region.

The Sarasota resident made her mark as a reporter and TV host at the local ABC affiliate after receiving a bachelor’s degree in telecommunications at the University of Florida and a master of fine arts degree at Florida State University’s Conservatory of Motion Picture, Television and Recording Arts. She hosted a popular TV program called Common Ground, interviewed some the country’s most recognized entertainers and has appeared in numerous commercials and an ABC network primetime drama. 

Oldham has produced documentaries and shorts: “Reflections: A History of Sarasota County;” “Triumphant Struggle;” and “Looking for Angola,” and most recently “Newtown Alive.” 

A career transition led her into higher education in 2006. She was Albany State University’s Assistant Vice President for Institutional Advancement and Fort Valley State University’s Director of Marketing and Communications/Special Assistant to the President. Both are Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Below is a photo of Vickie and her three associates during this well-attended meeting.