Press Kit
Priscilla's Homecoming
Quick Search
About The Project
AfriQuest Free AA Genealogy Database
Enter the Research Library
Full-Text Reading Room
Lowcountry Africana
Online Archives We Love, and Why
Eleanor's Links
Success Stories
Audrey's NC, SC and VA Archive
Berkeley, SC Labor Contracts
Larry's Alabama Archive
Looking for Angola
Ask Christine
By Teachers for Teachers
Share Documents
Share Family Stories
Ancestors Page
Contact Us or Send Feedback
Thank You
Juneteenth Card to Give/Send, from Kenneth Burton
Juneteenth Editorial
Multicultural Gift Ideas
Search Records
Book Excerpt: Go Sound the Trumpet! Selections from Florida's African American History
© 2005 Edited by Canter Brown, Jr. and David H. Jackson, Jr.

Tales of Angola: Free Blacks, Red Stick Creeks, and International Intrigue in Spanish Southwest Florida, 1812-1821. From Go Sound the Trumpet: Selections in Florida's African American History,

© 2005, by Canter Brown, Jr. and David H. Jackson, Jr., Editors. University of Tampa Press

The lives of maroons and the presence of maroon communities in Florida have commanded the attention of serious writers since the mid-1800s; yet, our knowledge of the subject remains, at best and in important respects, incomplete. To the good, beginning with Joshua Giddings’s classic 1858 work The Exiles of Florida, the nation has enjoyed access to well-researched documentation regarding Florida’s free blacks and their participation in events of critical importance. [1]

In the twentieth century, Kenneth W. Porter followed up on Giddings’s start with a series of scholarly essays that he eventually incorporated into The Black Seminoles: History of a Freedom-Seeking People. Jane L. Landers subsequently turned an in-depth focus upon Florida’s and the nation’s first officially sanctioned free-black community, Fort Mose. By 1990, James W. Covington had added a substantive essay on one of its successor black settlements, the Negro Fort. [2]

Meanwhile, the fact that black communities of significance other than Fort Mose or the Negro Fort had existed in Florida at various times had evidenced itself repeatedly in scholarly works, although at least one settlement of major importance had escaped identification.

Hints about the community known as Angola had surfaced as early as 1945 when Kenneth W. Porter shared “Notes on Seminole Negroes in the Bahamas” with readers of The Florida Historical Quarterly. A few months later John M. Goggin released additional information and offered new insight. The Bahamian Department of Archives published supplemental documentary evidence in 1980 regarding “Seminole Settlements at Red Bays, Andros.” Harry A. Kersey, Jr., addressed the same subject in The Florida Anthropologist one year afterward. [3]

It required another decade before the link between the Bahamian exiles and their old Florida home could be established. Then, this author, building upon the earlier published work, suggested that a previously unknown free-black community had existed in southwest Florida that had served to keep alive colonial Florida’s status as a refuge of freedom in the aftermath of Fort Mose’s closure and the Negro Fort’s destruction. Additionally, he offered details
to the effect that this settlement, identified by neighboring Cuban fisherman with the name Angola, had existed as a focus for diplomatic and economic activities within the broader Atlantic world. Its presence, he argued, additionally had created reverberations that
influenced the course of United States history and, to a lesser extent, that of the British and Spanish Empires. [4]

The basic facts of the story were these. Beginning soon after the 1670 founding of what is now South Carolina by English planters coming principally from the Caribbean sugar island of Barbados, Spanish colonial officials decided to weaken, if not destroy, the Carolinian initiative. It did so in good part by attempting to undermine an economy that quickly based itself upon slave labor while also mandating efforts to afford greater protection for St. Augustine against English incursions. Authorities addressed the latter goal in part by construction of the massive stone fortress still known as the Castillo de San Marcos and, in 1683, by initiating an enduring black military service tradition through authorization of the colony’s first free black and mulatto militia companies. A crucial step toward the former goal of undermining Carolinian slavery also came in 1683. Particularly, the government granted freedom to runaway slaves from Carolina, regardless of race, so long as the runaways agreed to convert to Roman Catholicism. [5]

The founding of Georgia in the early 1730s led to yet another initiative. This involved the authorization of a free black town to be located strategically to the north of St. Augustine. Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose or Fort Mose had existed for two years when Georgians briefly overwhelmed the site in 1740, only to be repelled in a daring nighttime raid led by Fort Mose’s black captain Francisco Menendez. Rebuilt and re-occupied in the early 1750s, Fort Mose endured until possession of Florida passed to Great Britain in 1763 following the Seven Years or French and Indian War. As this occurred most Floridanos, white and black, opted to relocate to Cuba and other places. English plans thereafter favored introduction of chattel slavery into the colony. The dispersal of the bulk of its few remaining free black inhabitants to small settlements in the remote peninsula resulted, with many maroons associating with Seminole Indians, themselves recent arrivals from Georgia. Return of Spanish rule in 1784 brought reinstatement of the asylum policy, whether enforced formally or informally, and a consequent rise in Florida’s maroon population. Fort Mose, however, remained an abandoned ruin, and, for the time being, no equivalent community rose within the colony. [6]

Then came the Patriot War of 1812-1814. That conflict witnessed Georgians, combined with several score individuals who had arrived in East Florida from the United States since the Revolutionary War, unsuccessfully attempting to overthrow Spanish rule in the colony. One important engagement occurred in today’s Alachua County in September 1812. Seminoles and their black vassals, allied with Spain, turned back a Patriot advance. Fearful of the whites’ return, the victors fled into the peninsula. Soon, as Indian agent Benjamin Hawkins reported, “The negroes [are] now separated and at a distance from the Indians on the Hammocks or the Hammoc not far from Tampa bay.” In fact, the Seminoles headed for winter hunting towns along the Peace River’s headwaters in modern Polk County. The black refugees hurried themselves to the Manatee River. [7]

Why the Manatee River? For one thing the site of the black settlement there–apparently located on a point of land at the Braden-Manatee River junction within today’s Bradenton–offered an easily defensible position near fertile farm land and not far from rich hunting grounds. Perhaps more importantly, a Cuban fishing rancho located close by gave the black warriors and their families easy access to the Caribbean and the broader Atlantic world. At the Manatee, the refugees enjoyed opportunities for trading deer skins, plumes, and agricultural crops for desired goods. There also, relatively easy channels of communication to Spanish officialdom at Havana and elsewhere opened wide. Records left by two of the Cuban fishermen preserved the name by which they referred to the black community, Angola. [8]

Although the Patriot War refugees arrived at the Manatee River in 1812, it may be that they previously had lived at the site for years, at least on a seasonal basis. Indians from all over the southeastern region for decades had enjoyed a winter sojourn in south Florida, hunting deerskins and colorful plumes that they could exchange for trade goods at the Cuban fishing ranchos located on and near the Gulf of Mexico. As alluded to earlier, Seminoles joined this movement.

In so doing, they profited by servicing parties passing into and out of the hunting grounds from a village named Talakchopco that lay on the main crossing point of the Peace River (today’s Fort Meade). The Seminoles’ maroon vassals and allies likely accompanied them, living, as they typically did, separate and apart from the Seminoles. A letter from an English merchant supports the possibility that the maroons had centered their activities in the Manatee River’s vicinity as early as 1772. It described the keys to the south of Tampa Bay as the “haunt of the picaroons of all nations.” [9]

As its inhabitants built their community, word of Angola spread not just within the Spanish Empire but also to the British. Two officers, Edward Nicolls and George Woodbine, soon may have recruited men there for British operations along the Gulf coast during the War of 1812. Following the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815, Nicolls and Woodbine, who had managed to enlist about 400 black warriors in Florida, returned most of their men to the Apalachicola River area. Upstream at Prospect Bluff, they had facilitated construction of a fortified outpost, subsequently known as the Negro Fort. While the two officers thus had created Florida’s second free-black refuge of the period, they likely enhanced Angola’s
population as well. Surviving papers of the merchant concern John Forbes & Company hinted at Woodbine’s possible return to that vicinity in 1815 with eighty “slaves.” [10]

Woodbine provided additional British Empire connections for Angola. At Nassau in late 1815, he ran into another English officer and old acquaintance, Robert Chrystie Ambrister. Within three years the two men were cooperating in various schemes aimed at seizing power within Florida. As these plans evolved, Ambrister established a store on Tampa Bay in cooperation with Nassau merchant Alexander Arbuthnot. Presumably this emporium lay at Manatee River, although it simply may have consisted of a ship moored in the river or bay. Early historian John Lee Williams believed that their connections with Angola ran even deeper. Writing of the Manatee and Braden Rivers, Williams declared: “The point between these two rivers is called Negro Point. The famous Arbuthnot and Ambrister had at one time a plantation here cultivated by two hundred negroes.” [11]

During the same period of time, Angola’s resident population grew somewhat as a result of calamity provoked by the United States Army. Under authority ultimately derived from General Andrew Jackson, then commanding the Southern Department, United States military forces illegally entered Spanish Florida in summer 1816 with orders to eliminate the Negro Fort and its threat to the expansion of cotton plantation slavery in nearby areas of presentday Georgia and Alabama. A lucky mortar shot exploded the fort’s powder magazine, killing over 200 victims instantly and mortally wounding or “terribly” maiming nearly seventy others. The historians William S. Coker and Thomas D. Watson spoke to the fate of some who escaped. “Other [runaway John Forbes & Company] slaves joined the blacks on the Suwannee,” they observed, “some fled as far south as Tampa.” [12]

By 1818, news of Angola had reached ears in the United States, as well as in the Spanish and British Empires. Among them were Andrew Jackson’s. At the time he desired to punish Upper (or Red Stick) Creek foes who had eluded his grasp after fighting in Alabama and otherwise during the time of the War of 1812. The general also wished to rid the southeast of free black warriors who had supported Spain and England, as well as to return runaway slaves to their owners. Jackson already had attempted–with less than complete success–to accomplish the latter goal in 1816 when his men destroyed the Negro Fort. Now, less than two years later, he personally led an invasion of Spanish Florida. History labels the conflict that resulted as the First Seminole War. Jackson’s controversial move, coming in late winter 1818, resulted in the hanging deaths of Arbuthnot and Ambrister. It also resulted in a stunning defeat for Jackson’s forces in April when black warriors held their position on the Suwannee River’s west bank long enough to permit their families and themselves to escape into the peninsula. The Red Stick Creeks already had slipped away. [13]

Memories of the battle lasted long in the minds of Angolans and their descendants. As late as 1972 researcher Jan Carew interviewed one such descendant on Andros Island. “I heard ‘bout the battle of Swannee against [General] Jackson, my grandmother tell me ‘bout it and her grandmother tell her ‘bout it long before,” the elderly woman declared. “Stories like that does come down to us with voices in the wind,” she continued. “She tell me how the Old Ones used to talk ‘bout the look on them white soldiers faces when they see Black fighters looking like they grow outta the swamp grass and the hammocks, coming at them with gun and cutlass. Jackson get hurt at the Swannee man. The ancestors brutalized him there.” She concluded: “My old face beat against eighty-odd years. . . . But when Jesus of Nazareth decide to send Mantop to carry me to the Great Beyond, wherever my blood-seed scatter, they will spread the word ‘bout how Black and Seminole ancestors fight side by side at Swannee.” [14]

A man of determination, Jackson in 1818 refused to leave well enough alone, a circumstance that held serious future implications for Angolan maroons. Furious at the latest escape of the Red Stick and black warriors, the general ordered his trusted aide James Gadsden to discover their whereabouts. In August 1818, Gadsden reported. “The bay of Tampa is the last rallying spot of the disaffected negroes and Indians and the only favorable point from whence a communication can be had with Spanish and European emissaries,” he informed his superior. “[The British officer Edward Nicolls] it is reported has an establishment in that neighborhood and the negroes and Indians driven from Micosukey and Suwaney towns have directed their march to that quarter.” Before year’s end the general urged Secretary of War John C. Calhoun to permit him to occupy Tampa Bay in spring 1819. His specific goal, he advised, was to destroy “Woodbine’s negro establishment.” Calhoun declined to accommodate the request. [15]

Deprived of the authority that he desired, Jackson bided his time while Angola emerged as a bee hive of diplomatic and economic activity. The Red Stick Creeks under their chief Peter McQueen had settled in the Seminoles’ old hunting towns on the Peace River headwaters, with McQueen occupying Talakchopco. Along with the chief, Angola’s residents, including the Suwannee River warriors and their families, launched a series of diplomatic initiatives aimed at garnering needed support from the British and Spanish Empires. Help proved not long in coming. By fall 1818 Spanish officials had dispatched overland “ten horse-loads of ammunition” and a plea recommending “united and vigorous operations” against the United States. An “English trading vessel” also had slipped into Tampa Bay loaded with “provisions and ammunition.” [16]

The show of imperial support for the Angolans permitted Jackson’s foes to maintain their lives and freedom, but dynamics stirred by the First Seminole War were about to jeopardize them again. Spain realized that it could not defend Florida and, in 1819, agreed to the Adams-Onís Treaty transferring the colonies of East and West Florida to the United States. Spanish officials believed, however, that they had protected the Angolans, the Red Stick Creeks, and others living within the peninsula. They had done so by insisting that the pact contain certain language. “The inhabitants of the Territories which His Catholic Majesty cedes to the United-States by this Treaty,” it read, “shall be incorporated in the Union of the United-States, as soon as may be consistent with the principles of the Federal Constitution, and admitted to the enjoyment of all privileges, rights and immunities of the Citizens of the United States.” [17]

The language failed to impress Andrew Jackson, and this led to disastrous consequences at Tampa Bay and the Manatee River. Named by President James Monroe early in 1821 as Florida’s provisional governor to accept the transfer of possession from Spain, the general quickly asked for authority to “order up” the Red Stick Creeks to “the Creek Country” and to capture, as he put it, “the negroes who have run away from the States & inhabit this country and are protected by the Indians.” Denied permission yet again by Calhoun, Jackson apparently acted on his own authority. Within a matter of weeks, his Lower Creek ally Chief William McIntosh, whom Jackson had managed to commission a Brigadier General in the United States Army, ordered a Lower Creek war party into Florida.

Led by McIntosh’s man Colonel Charles Miller and Jackson’s Red Stick protégé William Weatherford, the raiders wreaked havoc as they progressed down the peninsula. At the Manatee River in late spring, they surprised Angolans and destroyed their settlement along with the nearby fishing rancho. The raiders also boarded a trading vessel owned by Edward Nicolls that lay moored in the river, taking from it at least one captive. The Lower Creeks seized about 300 prisoners all told, including a man who once had belonged to George Washington. Most of the prisoners disappeared as they were being returned to the United States. [18]

Records available today contain only scanty references, but they suggest that memories of the 1821 raid that destroyed Angola remained vivid in survivors’ minds just as did recollections of the Battle of the Suwannee. Elizabeth Newton, who managed to secure refuge in the Bahamas, had been “born in Tampa Bay, Florida, and always lived there.” An account published in the Bahama Herald in 1853 noted of “Lizzie” and her husband Ben Sims, “They were both free, and lived among the Indians.” Ben’s life may have ended in the raid. “Soon after she lost Ben she came over to Andros Island in the Bahamas,” the account detailed, “in consequence of the Indians warring against each other.” A friend of Lizzie’s, Mitchell Roberts, may have fought against the raiders and survived. “He was born in Florida,” the article explained, “and served in the Royal Colonial Marines there stationed during the American war, at a fort called Prospect Bluff.” It added, “He knows Elizabeth Newton,–when she lived among the Indians.” Perhaps the elderly woman interviewed in 1972 by Jan Carew was referring to the raid when she declared of Andrew Jackson: “Oh God! That man Jackson was cruel, eh? He make slaves of them who was free already for two and three generations.” She went on to state, “He sell the grandchildren of former slaves to the grandchildren of former slave owners!” [19]

As these accounts illustrate, not all of Angola’s residents fell victim to the 1821 raid. Seeking haven, 250 or so persons fled to the Florida keys, where fisherman picked them up before carrying them to the Bahamas. Some may have been transported on Edward Nicolls’s ship, and at least a few appear to have made it across the Gulf Stream in canoes. British officials eventually allowed them to remain on Andros Island. Others sought Red Stick Creek protection on the Peace River headwaters. There, at the village of Minatti (a name probably derived from Manatee and pronounced similarly), they survived while forging closer ties with their new Creek neighbors and never forgetting the treacherous examples set for them by Andrew Jackson and his agents. The new refuge on the southeastern shore of Lake Hancock north of modern Bartow, while not as convenient as the Manatee River, nonetheless afforded blacks and Creeks access to reliable lines of communication to British and Spanish allies through Charlotte Harbor at the Peace River’s mouth. [20]

As one-time Angolans reassembled their lives on Andros Island and at Minatti, controversy regarding the raid flared in high places. In July 1821 James G. Forbes informed Secretary of State John Quincy Adams of the event. “The Cowetas . . . are said to have been at Tampa about 200 strong and taken from thence about 120 Negroes after destroying four Spanish settlements there,” he wrote from St. Augustine. The next month Creek Indian Agent John Crowell similarly notified Secretary of War Calhoun. “Some time previous to my coming into the agency,” Crowell detailed, “the chiefs, had organized a Regt. of Indian Warriors, and sent them into Florida in pursuit of negroes that had escaped from their owners, in the Creek nation as well as such as had run off from their owners in the States.” He added, “The detachment has recently returned, bringing with them, to this place fifty-nine negroes, besides about twenty delivered to their respective owners on their march up.” The information infuriated Calhoun, who responded in late September. “The expedition to Florida was entirely unknown to this Department,” he informed Crowell, “and I have to express my concern at, and most decided approbation of, the conduct of the chiefs; that they should seize upon the very moment when that country was about to pass from the possession of Spain to that of the United States, and when everything was in confusion, to use the superior force of the Creek nation over the weakness of the Seminoles, to impose on and plunder them.” [21]

The official correspondence took care to place blame for the raid on McIntosh’s Lower Creeks and avoided any reference to Jackson or McIntosh’s association with the provisional governor. Privately, a different situation may have prevailed. At Pensacola, Jackson strove to redirect public attention to his political fight with the former Spanish Governor of West Florida regarding transfer of Spanish records. Perhaps significantly, he also, as historians David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler explained, “took a personal interest in the claims of a woman who alleged that [John] Forbes and Company had defrauded her late husband’s estate.” The governor’s maneuver backfired. The Congress demanded an investigation of his conduct in Florida, subsequent to which he departed from the territory. Back home at Nashville by October, he resigned his gubernatorial commission on November fourteenth. To President Monroe he expressed a desire to “retire to resusitate my declining fortune to inable it to support me in my declining years.” [22]

Surviving evidence does not permit a determination as to whether sales of Angolans who disappeared on the trail back to the United States helped to “resusitate” Jackson’s “declining fortune,” but the possibility cannot be discounted. About the time of the governor’s resignation, “AN EYE-WITNESS” raised questions in the columns of a South Carolina newspaper for “Planters who have had their Negroes missing.” He urged discovery of “those speculative gentlemen” who were profiting from the raid, and he did so in terms that well applied to Jackson. Interestingly, the letter, subsequently reprinted in major newspapers elsewhere such as Philadelphia’s National Gazette and Literary Register, appeared initially in the Charleston City Gazette, an organ known at the time for its support of John C. Calhoun. [23]

The City Gazette’s item commenced with a factual recitation. “Towards the end of the month of April last, some men of influence and fortune, residing somewhere in the western country, thought of making a speculation in order to obtain Slaves for a trifle,” it detailed. “For this purpose, they hired Charles Miller, William Weatherford [and others], and under these chiefs, were engaged about two hundred Cowetas Indians,” the letter continued. “They were ordered to proceed along the western coast of East Florida, southerly, and there take, in the name of the United States [emphasis added], and make prisoners of all the men of colour, including women and children, they would be able to find, and bring them all, well secured, to a certain place, which has been kept a secret.” The “EYE-WITNESS” then offered first-hand details of the raid and of Angola’s destruction. “They arrived at Sazazota [the general area of Sarasota; this is, the Manatee River], surprised and captured about 300 of them, plundered their plantations, set on fire all their houses, and then proceeding southerly captured several others; and on the 17th day of June, arrived at the Spanish Ranches, in Pointerrass Key, in Carlos Bay, where not finding as many Negroes as they expected, they plundered the Spanish fishermen of more than 2000 dollars worth of property, besides committing the greatest excess.” The account added, “[W]ith their plunder and prisoners, they returned
to the place appointed for the deposit of both.” [24]

Enhancing the credibility of “EYE-WITNESS,” the letter furnished details of the raid’s aftermath, information of a sort to which Calhoun easily would have had access. “[T]he terror thus spread along the Western Coast of East Florida, broke all the establishments of both blacks and Indians, who fled in great consternation,” it asserted. “The blacks principally, thought they could not save their lives but by abandoning the country; therefore, they, by small parties and in their Indian canoes, doubled Cape Sable and arrived at Key Taviniere, which is the general place of rendezvous for all the English wreckers [those who profited from recovery of shipwreck property], from Nassau, Providence; an agreement was soon entered into between them, and about 250 of these negroes were by the wreckers carried to Nassau and clandestinely landed.” “EYEWITNESS” even shared up-to-date information regarding some of those left behind. “On the 7th of Oct. last, about 40 more were at Key Taviniere, ready to take their departure for Nassau,” he wrote, “these were the stragglers who had found it difficult to make their escape, and had remained concealed in the forests.” [25]

The letter then reached its point. “Now all these Negroes, as well as those captured by the Indians, and those gone to Nassau, are runaway Slaves, from the Planters on St. John’s River, in Florida, Georgia, Carolina, and a few from Alabama,” its writer proclaimed. “Cannot those Planters who have had their Negroes missing recover them by means of these chiefs I have named, and who are so well known by the parts they have been playing for some time past in the late Indian wars, and discover who are those speculative gentlemen who now hold their Negroes, and if they were lawfully their slaves? Could not all those Negroes unlawfully introduced into Nassau be also recovered by an application to the English governor, backed by a formal demand from the Government of the United States?” By way of conclusion, “EYE-WITNESS” added: “Let the Southern Planter reflect on the above. I can assure them that they may depend on the correctness of the statement I have just given to them.” [26]

The mischief that “EYE-WITNESS” hoped to stir appears to have subsided quickly, although Jackson by no means had finished with either the Angola survivors or the Red Sticks, nor had they finished with him. Elected president in 1828, the former Florida governor quickly pushed for passage of the Indian Removal Act. With its approval in 1829 by a narrow margin, he again set about removing the maroons and Creeks, among others, from Florida. His protégé James Gadsden negotiated emigration treaties with Seminole chiefs that carried about them a distinct odor of corruption. At Peace River, Minatti’s residents determined to resist, believing–based upon firm memory born of hard experience–none of Gadsden’s or Jackson’s promises. The Red Stick Creeks, similarly disposed, joined them. [27]

Historians once questioned how “the Seminoles” obtained sufficient weapons and supplies to launch a campaign of resistance in the mid-1830s; actually, free blacks and Red Stick Creeks (not Seminoles) utilized connections of past days to obtain the necessities of war. How could they do so when their peninsular reservation–delimited for them in 1823 by James Gadsden–kept them from the coast? The answer lay in the fact that many of the same Cuban fishermen who had lived near Angola operated by the early 1830s at Charlotte Harbor. In 1835, these old business associates of the Angolans even managed to have the area’s United States customs inspector suspended, leaving the door wide open for whatever transfers were needed. As Second Seminole War expert John K. Mahon noted, “Every warrior seemed to have a rifle, and a superior one at that.” Future researchers may well discover the origins of those firearms in British or Spanish armories, dispatched to Florida by high-ranking officials in recognition of past valor, imperial promises, and pressures applied by Edward Nicolls, George Woodbine, or their friends. [28]

With proper arms and supplies at the ready, one-time Angolans prepared to make their stand. The maroons and their Creek allies took action in 1835, with the incidents leading up to the Second Seminole War’s outbreak spreading from the Peace River’s headwaters west to Tampa Bay and north to the frontier of white settlement. Peter McQueen’s nephew Osceola led the Creeks, while Minatti’s war chief Harry carried on the military heritage forged generations earlier by Francisco Menendez and others. When hostilities commenced in earnest in December, it quickly became apparent that far more than an Indian war confronted the United States. As General Thomas S. Jesup declared in 1836, “This . . . is a negro war, not an Indian war.” The general added, “Throughout my operations I found the negroes the most active and determined warriors, and during the conferences with the Indian chiefs I ascertained that they exercised an almost controlling influence over them.” When Andrew Jackson left the presidency in March 1837, the maroons remained in Florida and at war. [29]

The intertwined connections of President Andrew Jackson and the inhabitants of a place called Angola thus had produced a race war by the mid-1830s; yet the product of those relationships may have carried an impact far more profound than that. It may well have ignited the largest slave rebellion in United States history. Kenneth Porter outlined as early as 1946 the efforts of Florida’s principal maroon leader Abraham to curry the favor of “valuable potential allies in the slaves on the sugar-plantations of the St. Johns river” and other locales. Abraham and his agents promised the bondsmen, according to Porter, “freedom and plunder” if they were “prepared to revolt simultaneously with the inevitable outbreak of hostilities.” True to Abraham’s word, when the war erupted, Indian and black leaders, as Larry E. Rivers explained, “attacked plantations to the east and north, murdering inhabitants, burning crops and buildings, and liberating slaves to join the fighting.” Perhaps 750 to 1,000 slaves revolted, although scholars have yet to examine the magnitude of the uprising in the detail that the situation deserves. Without question, though, the Seminole Second War involved slave revolt on a scale little appreciated until recently. [30]

Angola and its successor community Minatti represented during their existence the beacon of freedom that Florida had held out to runaway slaves and maroons since the late 1600s; yet, for that very reason, the state’s histories have ignored them until the modern era. Even their physical remains disappeared. A sugar plantation ironically rose above Angola’s ruins beginning in 1841, worked by bondsmen locked in the harsh shackles of chattel slavery. The modern city, within the present limits of which the ruins still could be seen in the 1830s, takes its name Bradenton, not from Angola, but from planter friends of James Gadsden’s, the Bradens, who claimed the rich land as the Second Seminole War drew toward its close.
Minatti, too, lay in ashes. South Carolina volunteers had burned it to the ground in April 1836, partly in furor that they had failed to capture its former occupants and their Red Stick Creek friends. A few years after the Bradens had claimed Angola, another family of white settlers, the Raulersons, settled their homestead at the Minatti site. The Second Seminole War by then had ended. Maroon warriors and their loved ones either lay dead, had been transported to the west, or were endeavoring to survive at Andros Island. For the most part only memories remained, and they faded in time. Anthropologist Rosalyn Howard grew close to many descendants of the Andros settlers in the 1990s and recorded their recollections. Even there, little of earlier rich memories remained. As she explained of one man, “His ancestors may have come from Florida, [but] his identity and loyalty lie with the only place he has known as home, Andros Island, Bahamas.” [31]

~ Notes ~

1. The author read an early and shorter version of this essay at the First Biennial Allen Morris Conference, held at Florida State University, Tallahassee, on February 12, 2000.

2. Joshua R. Giddings, The Exiles of Florida; or, The Crimes Committed by Our Government Against the Maroons, Who Fled from South Carolina and Other Slave States, Seeking Protection under Spanish Laws (Columbus, Ohio: Follett, Foster, 1858; reprint ed., Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1964); Kenneth W. Porter, The Black Seminoles: History of a Freedom-Seeking People, rev. and ed. by Alcione M. Amos and Thomas P. Senter (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1996); Jane L. Landers, “Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose: A Free Black Town in Spanish Colonial Florida,” American Historical Review 95 (February 1990), 9-30; James W. Covington, “The Negro Fort,” Gulf Coast Historical Review 5 (spring 199), 79-91.

3. Kenneth W. Porter, “Notes on Seminole Negroes in the Bahamas,” Florida Historical Quarterly 24 (July 1945), 56-60; John M. Goggin, “The Seminole Negroes of Andros Island, Bahamas,” Florida Historical Quarterly 24 (January 1946), 201-206; David E. Wood, comp., A Guide to Selected Sources for the History of the Seminole Settlements at Red Bays, Andros, 1817-1980 (Nassau: Department of Archives, 1980); Harry A. Kersey, Jr., “The Seminole Negroes of Andros Island Revisited: Some New Pieces to an Old Puzzle,” Florida Anthropologist 34 (December 1981), 169-76. For an excellent and comprehensive look at the Andros Island settlements, see Rosalyn Howard, Black Seminoles in the Bahamas (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2002). On other black communities, see, for example, mention of the leader Abraham’s village of Pilaklikaha (or Peliklakaha) in Kenneth W. Porter’s “The Negro Abraham,” Florida Historical Quarterly 25 (July 1946), 10.

4. Canter Brown, Jr., “The ‘Sarrazota, or Runaway Negro Plantations’: Tampa Bay’s First Black Community, 1812-1821,” Tampa Bay History 12 (fall/winter 1990), 5-19; idem, Florida’s Peace River Frontier (Orlando: University of Central Florida Press, 1991), 7-9; idem, African Americans on the Tampa Bay Frontier (Tampa: Tampa Bay History Center, 1997), 9-14; idem, Tampa Before the Civil War (Tampa: University of Tampa Press, 1999), 7-9.

5. Jane L. Landers, Black Society in Spanish Florida (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999), 22-28.

6. Ibid., 29-83; Larry Eugene Rivers, Slavery in Florida, Territorial Days to Emancipation (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000), 4-8.

7. Brown, “Sarrazota, or Runaway Negro Plantations,” 5-6; idem, Florida’s Peace River Frontier, 7-9; Benjamin Hawkins to D. B. Mitchell, May 31, 1813, in Louise Frederick Hayes, “Letters of Benjamin Hawkins, 1797-1815 (typescript, Atlanta, 1939) (available at Georgia Department of Archives and History, Atlanta), 198-200. Principal works on the Patriot War included Rembert W. Patrick, Florida Fiasco: Rampant Rebels on the Georgia-Florida Border, 1810-1815 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1954); Joseph Burkholder Smith, James Madison’s Phony War (New York: Arbor House, 1983); James G. Cusick, The Other War of 1812: The Patriot War and the American Invasion of Spanish East Florida (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2003); and Frank Lawrence Owsley, Jr., and Gene A. Smith, Filibusters and Expansionists: Jeffersonian Manifest Destiny, 1800-1821 (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1997.

8. Janet Snyder Matthews, Edge of Wilderness: A Settlement History of Manatee River and Sarasota Bay, 1528-1885 (Tulsa, Ok.: Caprine Press, 1983), 71; E. A. Hammond, “The Spanish Fisheries of Charlotte Harbor,” Florida Historical Quarterly 51 (April 1973), 355-80; Jose Maria Caldez and Joaquin Caldez land grant applications, Spanish Land Grants (Unconfirmed Grants), film file 2.1 (microfilm available at John Germany Public Library Special Collections Department, Tampa, and at Coleman Library microfilm room, Florida A&M University, Tallahassee).

9. James W. Covington, The Seminoles of Florida (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1993), 26-27; William H. Simmons, Notices of East Florida, With an Account of the Seminole Nation of Indians (Charleston, S.C.: A. E. Miller, 1822; reprint ed., Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1973), 78; Brown, Florida’s Peace River Frontier, 5-7; Karl A. Bickel, The Mangrove Coast: The Story of the West Coast of Florida (New York: Coward: McCann, 1942), 182.

10. Brown, “Sarrazota, or Runaway Negro Plantations,” 6-7; Landers, Black Society in Spanish Florida, 233-34; Covington, “Negro Fort,” 79-91; William S. Coker and Thomas D. Watson, Indian Traders of the Southeastern Spanish Borderlands: Panton, Leslie & Company and John Forbes & Company, 1783-1847 (Pensacola: University of West Florida Press, 1986), 301-302, 309, 320.

11. Coker and Watson, Indian Traders, 301-302, 320-21; John Lee Williams, The Territory of Florida (New York: A. T. Goodrich, 1837; reprint ed., Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1962), 299-300.

12. Covington, “Negro Fort, ” 81-87; Owsley and Smith, Filibusters and Expansionists, 103-113; Coker and Watson, Indian Traders, 309.

13. Giddings, Exiles of Florida, 49-56; Virginia Bergman Peters, The Florida Wars (Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1979), 47-59; John K. Mahon, History of the Second Seminole War (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1967), 23-28.

14. Quoted in Howard, Black Seminoles in the Bahamas, 114.

15. “The Defences of the Floridas: A Report of Captain James Gadsden, Aidede-Camp to General Andrew Jackson,” Florida Historical Quarterly 7 (July 1928), 66-67; Andrew Jackson to Secretary of War, November 28, 1818, in American State Papers: Military Affairs, 7 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Gales and Seaton, 1832-1860), I, 752.

16. Brown, “Sarrazota, or Runaway Negro Plantations,” 10-11; idem, Florida’s Peace River Frontier, 10-19; American State Papers, Military Affairs, I, 752-53.

17. Dorothy Dodd, Florida Becomes a State (Tallahassee: Florida Centennial Commission, 1945), 99; Mahon, History of the Second Seminole War, 29.

18. Brown, “Sarrazota, or Runaway Negro Plantations,” 12-15; Jackson to Adams, April 2, 1821, in Clarence E. Carter, ed., The Territorial Papers of the United States, vols. XXII-XXVI: Florida Territory (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-1962), XXII, 28-29 (hereafter, TP); John Crowell to John C. Calhoun, January 22, 1822, in T. J. Peddy, “Creek Letters 1820-1824 (typescript in Georgia Department of Archives and History, Atlanta), 22.2.22.C.C.

19. Nassau Bahama Herald, December 21, 1853, quoted in Kersey, “Seminole Negroes,” 173-74; Howard, Black Seminoles in the Bahamas, 114.

20. Porter, “Notes on Seminole Negroes”; Goggin, “Seminole Negroes”; Kersey, “Seminole Negroes”; Wood, Guide; Nassau Royal Gazette and Bahama Advertiser, March 20, 1822; Brown, “Sarrazota, or Runaway Negro Plantations,” 15-16; idem, Florida’s Peace River Frontier, 39-40; idem, “The Florida Crisis of 1826-1827 and the Second Seminole War,” Florida Historical Quarterly 73 (April 1995), 421-22.

21. TP, XXII, 119; Peddy, “Creek Letters,” 21.8.20.C.C.-21.9.29.C.C.

22. David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler, Old Hickory’s War: Andrew Jackson and the Quest for Empire (Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 1996), 230-31;
Sidney Walter Martin, Florida During the Territorial Days (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1944), 26-31.

23. “Advice to Southern Planters” in Charleston City Gazette, c. November 1821, reprinted in Philadelphia National Gazette and Literary Register, December 3, 1821; Irving H. Bartlett, John C. Calhoun: A Biography (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1993), 141.

24. “Advice to Southern Planters.”

25. Ibid.

26. Ibid.

27. Mahon, History of the Second Seminole War, 69-86; Brown, Florida’s Peace River Frontier, 36-41.

28. Hammond, “Spanish Fisheries,” 372; Mahon, History of the Second Seminole War, 120.

29. Mahon, History of the Second Seminole War, 87-218; Brown, Florida’s Peace River Frontier, 40-49; idem, African American on the Tampa Bay Frontier, 17- 20; Porter, Black Seminoles, 31-80; American State Papers, Military Affairs, VII, 827-32.

30. Porter, “Negro Abraham,” 17-18; Rivers, Slavery in Florida, 202-203; Brown, “Florida Crisis,” 440-42; idem, Florida’s Peace River Frontier 40-43.

31. Matthews, Edge of Wilderness, 129; Lillie B. McDuffee, The Lures of Manatee: A True Story of South Florida’s Glamourous Past (Manatee: priv. pub., 1933), 32-33; John Lee Williams, The Territory of Florida (New York: A. T. Goodrich, 1837; reprint ed., Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1962), 299-300; Canter Brown, Jr., In the Midst of All That Makes Life Worth Living: Polk County, Florida, to 1940 (Tallahassee: Sentry Press, 2001), 39-40; idem, Florida’s Peace River Frontier, 44-45; idem, Tampa Before the Civil War, 73-75; Howard, Black Seminoles in the Bahamas, 110.

Please Note: This excerpt appears by special permission of the author and publisher and may not be presented elsewhere without permission of the copyright holders.
Explore. Discover. Learn. Teach.

Search Africana Heritage for Related Content

Read more about Go Sound the Trumpet: Selections from Florida's African American History at the University of Tampa Press

Buy Go Sound the Trumpet! Selections from Florida's African American History from the University of Tampa Press

Buy Go Sound the Trumpet! Selections from Florida's African American History from

Read our interview with Dr. Canter Brown, Jr. about the Looking for Angola project


Visit the Looking for Angola website to learn more about the search for traces of this maroon community on Florida''s Southwest coast.


Check out these additional free online resources to learn more about Black Seminoles, maroons and freedom seekers in Florida:

Black Seminoles
Blacks and the Seminole Removal Debate, 1821-1835 by George Klos

Osceola and the Negroes by Kenneth W. Porter

The Negro Abraham by Kenneth W. Porter

Notes on Seminole Negroes in the Bahamas by Kenneth W. Porter

The Seminole Negroes of Andros Island, Bahamas by John M. Goggin

Maroons and Freedom Seekers
Black Slaves, Red Masters, White Middlemen: A Congressional Debate of 1852 by James E. Sefton

Finding Freedom in Florida: Native Peoples, African Americans, and Colonists, 1670-1816 by Patrick Riordan

The Exiles of Florida;: or, The Crimes Committed by Our Government Against the Maroons, Who Fled from South Carolina, and Other Slave States, Seeking Protection Under Spanish Laws (The 1858 publication by Joshua Giddings.)

Events at Prospect Bluff on the Apalachicola River, 1808-1818 by Mark F. Boyd (This article describes the destruction of the "Negro Fort.")

Spanish Sanctuary: Fugitives in Florida, 1687-1790 by Jane Landers

The Return of Runaway Slaves 1790-1794 by Richard K. Murdoch

Trial and Imprisonment of Jonathan Walker, at Pensacola, Florida, for Aiding Slaves to Escape from Bondage: With an Appendix, Containing a Sketch of his Life. 1845 edition by Johnathan Walker.


Looking for Angola: Resources for Teachers

We''''ve scoured the Internet to bring you links to resources and free lesson plans that will help you bring the excitement of Looking for Angola into your classroom.

Below you will find links and resources for teaching students about Africans and Native Americans in Colonial Florida, runaway slaves, maroon communities, and archaeology’s role in rediscovering the past:



Seminoles and Slaves: Florida''''s Freedom Seekers By Jean West: from Slavery In America, this lesson plan examines the intertwined histories of Africans and Native Americans in Colonial Florida.

Living on the Fringe Lesson Plan: Maroon Communities from the Schomburg Center''''s website In Motion: The African American Migration Experience, this lesson plan for grades 9-12 explores maroon communities in Florida.

Africans in Colonial Florida by Scott Fields: brought to you by the Polk County, Florida Public School System. Here students will learn about the contributions made by enslaved and free Africans to the development of colonial Florida under Spanish and British rulers. They will also discuss the differences in attitudes toward slavery among the Spanish and the British. Finally, students will then create a timeline. Students should know after completion of this lesson that slavery was, and still is, a horrible wrong inflicted on many different groups of people in the past. With that said, the institution of slavery in Spanish Florida was very different from the English view, which later became the view of the American South.

Intertwined History of Native and African Americans by Lori Hall and Piper Mislovic, R. Bruce Wagner Elementary School: Another fine lesson plan brought to you by the Polk County, Florida Public School System. This lesson plan will help students understand the history of the Underground Railroad beginning in the South, as well as the historical significance of the people of African descent among the Seminoles.


Roads to Freedom Lesson Plan: Getting Free in the South By Stephanie Kaufman: from the Slavery in America website, students will experience the Roads to Freedom and use the information as a starting point for further research. Using tools from the National Archives education site, students will learn in more depth about the various roads through the use of primary source documents.

Creativity and Resistance: Maroon Cultures in the Americas from the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Smithsonian Institution: Designed to serve a broad audience of museum visitors, teachers, and students, this guide offers interdisciplinary activities for history, visual arts, social studies, creative writing, and music education. The materials can be adapted for all ages, from kindergarten students to adults.

Runaway Journeys from the Schomberg Center''''s "In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience," here are ten resource-rich lesson plans for grades 6 to 12.

Revolution: brought to you by PBS. The Teacher''''s Guide on the Web is an enhanced version of the print guide that accompanies the Africans in America video series. Each unit consists of two lessons: a general lesson that explores each 90-minute program and its companion Web content, and a focused lesson that highlights a short program segment and provides links to related primary sources.

Copyright 2004 The University of South Florida and The Africana Heritage Project. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. For more information, contact the Africana Heritage Project via e-mail.