Veronica Shoemaker was born in 1928 in the community of Dunbar. The second oldest of 11 children, she attended Dunbar High School during the day and organized Parent Teacher Association meetings in the Dunbar schools at night. She wanted African American parents to have a voice in their children’s education. In 1954, when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of school desegregation, she fought to desegregate Lee County Schools. She fought for fare wages, voter rights, and equal education for all and then she started a fight that took her 16 years to win.
In 1966, she ran for Ft. Myers City Council and lost. In 1982, she finally won the seat becoming the first African American to serve on the council. “After 16 years, winning the election was a huge milestone for me and for many others,” said Shoemaker in a 2007 interview for Florida Weekly. She held the seat for 26 years. Inspired by Shoemaker’s story, 14-year old Canterbury School student John Gamba, recently produced a video about Shoemaker. Through his research, interviews with those who know and have worked with Shoemaker, and with Shoemaker herself, Gamba reflects on what he has learned: “One of the life lessons that I learned (from Shoemaker) is to never give up.”
Shoemaker brings a sense of passion and determination to all of her endeavors. Over the years she has been an active member of the Dunbar Improvement Association, the Lee County NAACP, the Lee County Food Bank, the Lee County AIDS Task Force, the National Federation of Florists Society, Women in Municipal Government, and the Lee County Leadership Council.