REMEMBERING THE MANATEE RIVER MAROONS OF 1821: Heritage, Archaeology, and Digital Reconstructions

The history for Angola, an early 19th century maroon community on the Manatee River, is enmeshed with international intrigues, fights and flights for freedom, and reveals an impressive heritage of liberty in southwest Florida. Its history begins with events further north in Florida. 2016 brings the bicentennial of the destruction of the Negro Fort on the Apalachicola River in 1816.  

On September 10, 2016, Vickie Oldham, Director of Looking for Angola, New College of Florida Professor Uzi Baram, and Dr. Edward Gonzalez-Tennant of Digital Heritage Interactive presented on heritage, archaeology, and construction of the virtual world for the early 19th century landscape of Angola, a maroon community on the Manatee River. Many people attended the program to learn about the significance of that community and its people, known as maroons, Black Seminoles, African Seminoles, and freedom-seeking people. This event highlighted archaeological insights and unveiled new virtual reconstructions that help us better understand all of the early 19th-century maroon communities on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

From the Apalachicola River to Tampa Bay, people of African heritage battled for their freedom, sought refuge, and fell back in a southern movement that ultimately led some to Andros Island in the British Bahamas and the others to the Florida interior, where they and their descendants fought in the Second Seminole War. The destruction of the Negro Fort on the Apalachicola River in 1816 was followed by the Battle of Suwannee in 1818 and then the destruction of Angola and the other maroon communities south of Tampa Bay in 1821. It is a history of tragedy but also of survival.