The Suncoast Women of Action will host a voters’ rights rally in honor of Sarasota’s late civil rights icon Dr. Edward James II on Sat., Feb. 26, at the Newtown Estates Park pavilion, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. In 1979, Dr. James was the lead plaintiff in the federal case James v. City of Sarasota, Fla., that challenged the method by which Sarasota city commissioners were elected. As a result, on April 9, 1985, Fredd Atkins became the first Black to be elected to the Sarasota City Commission.
“Dr. James was an advocate, scholar, leader and teacher who believed in equality for Sarasota’s Black residents especially in the areas of voting, education and employment,” states Helen James, president of the Suncoast Women of Action. “This event reminds our community of the sacrifices that people like Dr. James made so that Black residents can have access to basic civil liberties without any prejudice.”
The voters’ rights rally coincides with the first day of early voting for the school district millage referendum and county charter referendum. Early voting will be available from Sat., Feb. 26 to Sun., Mar. 6 at the Betty J. Johnson North Sarasota Public Library, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Some of Dr. James’s notable accomplishments that continue to be highly influential to the Sarasota community at-large and Newtown residents are:
Being elected as the Sarasota County NAACP’s first youth president during his sophomore year of high school.
Becoming the first Black writer and columnist for “The Sarasota Journal,” the sister publication of the “Sarasota Herald-Tribune.”
Being the first Black anchor of WXLT, present-day WWSB-TV, and the host of “Black Almanac,” present-day “Empowering Voices,” the longest running public affairs program in Tampa Bay, Florida
The first and only Black person to serve as a spokesman and deputy chief investigator for the State Attorney’s Office of the 12th Judicial Circuit of Florida.
Authoring the first affirmative action plans for the City of Bradenton, Sarasota County government, Governor of Florida and the Florida Comptroller’s Office.
About the Suncoast Women of Action
The Suncoast Women of Action is committed to ensuring the electoral process equally represents the rights and privileges of citizens in Sarasota and Manatee communities. Through civic engagement, community collaborations, and individual initiative, every man and woman can impact his/her own destiny—and influence the global society. We partner with others who are committed to inclusion innovation and implementing positive change within communities where constitutional rights are threatened.