Along the Manatee River on the west coast of Florida, archaeologists are searching for the remains of a maroon community of former enslaved Africans and Seminole Indians. Together they fought two wars against the United States in the early 1800s before their settlement was destroyed. Some survivors escaped to The Bahamas, where their descendants still live today.
|Archaeologist Bill Burger, left, Begins Excavations|
at the Possible Site of Angola.
Photo Courtesy of Bill Burger.
Their settlement of about 750 people thrived from 1812 until 1821 when a Lower Creek Indian war party, possibly at the behest of General Andrew Jackson, looted and burned their homes, scattering the survivors across the Florida peninsula. Some may have resettled inland, while others made their way to Cape Florida, where they sailed to safety. They left behind a community called Angola.
This exodus from Angola on Florida's Gulf Coast was in the same year that Black Seminoles arrived at Red Bays on Andros Island in The Bahamas. If archaeologists unearth the lost settlement of Angola near Sarasota they could write a new chapter in the history of America and possibly make a conclusive connection between Angola and the Red Bays settlement where descendants of the early arrivals still live today.
The saga of Angola is hidden in historical documents, oral histories and physical evidence that scholars are attempting to collect in a multi-disciplinary research project called "Looking for Angola."
Angola is one of the most significant historical sites in Florida, if not the United States, Florida A&M University historian Canter Brown Jr., said. He is a member of the research team that is attempting to uncover artifacts, documents and oral histories to unlock the mysteries of Angola. "It illustrates the role Florida played as a refuge of freedom for slaves and their courage to get and keep their freedom," he said.
Other members of the research team are University of Central Florida anthropologist Rosalyn Howard, New College of Florida historical archaeologist Uzi Baram, independent archaeologist Bill Burger, Sarasota educator Louis Robinson and University of South Carolina archaeologist Terrance Weik.
The project involves archaeological field surveys of four sites; historical research throughout England and Nassau, Bahamas; public lectures; the production of a documentary; an educational component that involves middle and high school students as researchers; and an international cultural exchange program. MORE...
The USF Africana Heritage Project is Sponsored by the Africana Studies Department at the University of South Florida.
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