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Sarasota County Schools Observes 2021 Florida Black History Month

State 2021 theme: “Community Champions – Celebrating the Contributions of African Americans in Florida’s Communities”

1003.42 Required Instruction Legislation: (2)(h) – The history of African Americans, including the history of African peoples before the political conflicts that led to the development of slavery, the passage to America, the enslavement experience, abolition, and the contributions of African Americans to society. Instructional materials shall include the contributions of African Americans to American society.


Updated: February 17, 2021

Highlights of 2021 Observances:

  • Sarasota County Schools
    • On February 2, curriculum specialists highlighted school-based and district celebrations in honor of Black History Month during the School Board meeting.
    • On February 6, the school district and Newtown Alive hosted a ceremony to honor the late Mrs. Dorothy Smith – the first African American principal of a district school post-desegregation. A bronze plaque cast in her likeness will now adorn the front of Southside Elementary School for generations to come. Mrs. Dorothye Smith was known for being a strong and compassionate educator who had an immense heart for uplifting her students, staff, and colleagues. After completing her education at Bethune-Cookman University, Mrs. Smith began her career in Sarasota teaching African American fourth graders at Emma E. Booker Elementary School’s original campus in Overtown, the first enclave of the Newtown community. She taught there for 15 years before relocating to Venice Elementary School in the late 1960s during the integration of schools. Mrs. Smith also spent time teaching at Phillippi Shores Elementary School before taking her place in history as the first African American principal hired within the integrated school system in Sarasota County when she assumed leadership of Southside Elementary School. She later served as a Reading Specialist for the district as well as an administrator at Venice Elementary School before retiring. Please click here to view raw footage of the entire ceremony; a shorter tribute video is also available here.
  • Venice High School – A walking field trip was developed to get students involved in Black History Month. The Black History timeline was made by students, for students, and is intended to be interactive (students can read about significant events in history while also making contributions to the timeline). Students can add a significant event to the timeline in the form of printed materials or simply a sticky note. Art teachers added significant contributions in art, and science teachers added African American scientists who played key roles in American History. Athletes, mathematicians, and other important individuals were also added to this timeline.
  • Booker High School – The school made their acclaimed documentary “Into the Storm” available for free for all high schools and the community at-large to view. “Into the Storm” is a student-created documentary about Booker High in 1966 – 1967, where students won a state basketball championship and later boycotted the immediate closing of the school. They had to take on the responsibility of educating themselves and others by developing Freedom Schools in the local community. Along with an accompanying study guide, teachers and students can learn firsthand about the history of African Americans in Sarasota County by viewing “Into the Storm”.
  • Emma E. Booker Elementary School From a fourth-grade teacher: “Since fourth grade is the year that students start to truly develop into writers, they need to see themselves as writers. This year’s theme has been “Writing Gives us our Voice and our Power”. In order to expand the students’ knowledge of countless African American leaders, they have been studying an author a week since school started [on August 31]. Authors are represented on bulletin boards in various classrooms. The students’ morning work has been to correct two sentences relating to the author of the week and they have a quick “conventions quiz” on Friday. Students have also been reading their books (or portions) for afterschool or in-school reading, whenever possible. Additionally, students will be choosing a novel/book group for their author study. Students will be writing one of their most personal essays on their favorite African American author and how they [the author] inspire them [the student] as a writer.”
  • Southside Elementary School – Kindergarten students will be researching famous African Americans on  Students choose one person that interests them and are guided through how to conduct independent research on that person. Students will then teach the class about who they researched at the end of the month.
  • Venice Elementary School – Teachers are reading & sharing a wide range of books [with students] that feature historical events and figures related to the African American experience. Teachers are also showing [students] how the Civil Rights movement impacted the laws that exist today. Additionally, teachers are highlighting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders who showed/continue to show courage as inspiration for an “Acts of Kindness” class project that connects home and school.  
  • Wilkinson Elementary School – In second grade, Ms. Macauley’s students do biographies and biology during February. They will read about African American inventors, scientists, and writers during this unit. The children will be putting together an artistic representation of at least one person they study, design a monument of some sort, and complete an informational poster that informs people about their subject’s contributions. Students will look at historical figures through a STEAM lens.
  • McIntosh Middle School – From Paige Driza, Language Arts teacher: “It will be a great opening to Black History Month for all of McIntosh Middle School to watch the inauguration. I want students to then research and find a poem written by an African American poet & analyze the poem – (TPCASTT) Title, Paraphrase, Connotation, Attitude, Shifts, Title, Theme. I’ll then have my students read aloud the poem and use Amanda Gorman's reading as a point of reference [for their presentation]. After they read and share the poem, students will be asked to share their analysis of the poem of their choice.”
  • Sarasota Middle School – Students will create a History Journal (a one-page writing assignment) that relates to African American History Month using resources shared from the district on a variety of influential figures in history. The History Journal will ask students to choose one African American innovator or inventor. Students will be asked to summarize their [the innovator’s or inventor’s] accomplishments and describe how that person’s invention/ideas impact their [the students’] own life today.