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The Full Story

For over 20 years, the Reflections of Manatee Historical Museum has transported people back in time as they help visitors understand what life was like for its early settlers. From the 1700s to 1821, almost 700 Black freedom seekers found a haven on the Manatee River Gulf Coast. They traded with Spanish fishermen who fished for mullet to ship back to Cuba and Spain. Some were trained British Colonial Marines who had fought in the War of 1812 and had fled the 1814 attack on the fort at Prospect Bluff on the Apalachicola River.

In 2020, an archaeological excavation confirmed the location of part of the settlement at Manatee Mineral Springs Park. Historians connected local residents of Bradenton to descendants of the displaced Angola community on Andros Island, The Bahamas. Community leaders and descendants of Angola share the rich influence and impact of Angola heritage today at the annual Back to Angola Festival coming up October 20-22, 2023.

One of the main ways Reflections wants to tell that story of those who settled here is through our Living History Program. We are looking for volunteers to portray the Black and Hispanic men, women and children of Angola and the fishing ranchos in order to spotlight the challenges of life in this remote settlement far from urban centers. We would like to have living history volunteers of all ages to engage visitors at the festival and then at other events throughout the year.

The ideal volunteer enjoys history, is outgoing, likes being around the public, is flexible, has a good sense of humor, and is enthusiastic about sharing information about the settlement. Volunteers, 9 to 90, will have the opportunity to develop an historical impression by creating clothing of the period and to learn historic crafts, music, and dance.

To learn more about Reflections of Manatee Historical Museum visit our website at If your group is interested in how you might collaborate with Reflections to help us develop our living history program, please contact  Elizabeth Neily, Curator of Education and Living History at (727)744-7051 or myself at (847)226-5422.

Let’s Work Together

Get in touch so we can start working together.

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