Reflections is dedicated to educating the public about all the peoples who have explored, settled, lived, and worked along this section of the Manatee River. We conduct informational archaeology programs for adults, host field trips for school children, and conduct many demonstrations both onsite and around Florida.


In order for people of today to learn about the lives of those who inhabited the Manatee of yesterday, we must look to the sciences and tools of archaeology. Archaeological investigations teach us about; the prehistoric Native Americans whose mounds were on the ridge to the south of the Manatee Mineral Springs, the workers of the Cuban fishing ranchos who gathered their catch each winter from these shores, the Maroons (former African slaves) who found freedom here in the 1810s, and the pioneering settlers of the town of Manatee. Fragments of pottery and tobacco pipes, stone points and post holes, shells discarded from feasting or used as tools, and shark teeth, all help reveal the story of people whose names are lost to time.


On July 27, 1816 US Naval forces destroyed the fort at Prospect Bluff on the Apalachicola River, which was a refuge of African Seminoles, self-emancipated people of African heritage, and runaway slaves (referred to as Maroons). Survivors fled to the Suwannee River, but the 1818 Battle of Suwannee pushed some of them further south to the Tampa Bay area. In 1821, the Maroon communities were attacked again, this time survivors fled inland, or to Cape Florida, or to the British Bahamas where their descendants lived in freedom.

Excavations recently revealed traces of Angola, an early 19th century Maroon community on the Manatee River. Angola is a chapter in a decades-long history for peoples of African heritage that stretches from the Apalachicola River to Tampa Bay at the end of the Second Spanish Period (1783-1821). For the Black Seminoles, also known as exiles, runaway slaves and free blacks, African Seminoles, and freedom-seeking people, the period from 1816-1821, which is less well-known than than the earlier Fort Mosé and the later Second Seminole War eras, includes several locations on the Gulf Coast.

The “Looking for Angola” project was initiated by Vickie Oldham, a Sarasota resident and producer of local historical documentaries, after she heard mention of Angola while working on a documentary about African Americans in Sarasota. Cuban fishermen once referred to the area as "Angola". The Angola settlement was named after the region in West Africa that had one time been the home to some of the Manatee River community's residents.