Back to Angola Festival to Celebrate the Ties Between


The Oak Tree Community Outreach, a local not-for-profit corporation, is hosting an international event at the City of Bradenton Manatee Mineral Spring Park, July 13-15th. The Back to Angola Festival will celebrate the blended history of Red Bays, Bahamas and the early 1800’s community known as Angola, found to be located near the Manatee Mineral Spring in today’s East Bradenton, Florida. We invite all to attend.

This once forgotten maroon community, called Angola, was located at the Manatee Mineral Spring. Angola was located by archaeology and historical research undertaken through the efforts of several groups and universities. Some descendants of Angola still reside in Red Bays, Andros Island, Bahamas where the Angolans fled in 1821. At the Back to Angola Festival descendants from Red Bays will join local descendants, as well as others interested in this part of history, to celebrate their shared history and the peace and refuge that was found at the Manatee Mineral Spring and in Red Bays, Bahamas.

Located in East Bradenton, north of SR 64, off 14th St E. and 2nd Ave E. just a block from the Manatee River, under the guidance of Dr. Uzi Baram, Professor of Anthropology New College, and creator of the New College Public Archaeology lab, the maroon community called Angola was documented along the Manatee River where the Manatee Mineral Spring Park exists today. Dr. Roslayn Howard, retired Professor from University of Central Florida, researched the community and documented descendants living in Red Bays Bahamas. The history was brought to the media forefront by Vickie Oldham, who spearheaded “Looking for Angola”, a project dedicated to finding the location of Angola, a lost community of freedom seekers known to be near the spring in Bradenton, Florida around the turn of the 19th century.

Reflections of Manatee, a local non-profit preserved the Manatee Mineral Spring site, opening it to the Looking for Angola project for archaeological study. The archaeology began at one of their three museum houses, now on the National Register of Historical Places. The archaeology study area grew with ground penetrating radar, donated by Witten Technologies, under the guidance of the Army Corp of Engineers, and further excavations by Dr. Baram. Evidence recovered documented artifacts of that maroon community and its time period. Many groups became involved in the search, Time Sifters of Sarasota, The Florida Public Archaeology Network, students from several universities, and now the Oak Tree Community Outreach.

Angola became a beacon of freedom when Florida was Spanish territory, it was far from American power yet well-placed for communication with agents of Britain or Spain. It was destroyed in a massive slave-raid in 1821, shortly after Florida became a U.S. territory. Although over 300 individuals were captured and taken into slavery, many others escaped. Some relocated into the interior of Florida; others made their way to the British Bahamas. Braving the Atlantic Ocean, they reached Red Bays, Bahamas, where their descendants live today. We will celebrate these lives as we celebrate their freedom.

Today, the park at Manatee Mineral Spring has been nominated to the Underground Railroad, Network of Freedom, for the role the spring played when Freedom Seekers traveled south. This little park, welcoming all those who worked so hard to bring this hidden history to the forefront of our news, once more proves its importance as it emerges as a “Gem of the City,” hosting this international festival and becoming the gateway to the City of Bradenton Riverwalk East End.

All are invited to this important international festival and meet people of today brought together by time.
For more information please contact Dahney Towns, the organizer of the event, at or 941-807-5013 with any questions.

Oaktree Community Outreach is a community organization that promotes the culture, history and folklore of Bradenton and believes in educating our residents, especially our youth and children about the same.