Back to Angola

Rediscovering Roots and Celebrating Culture

The Back To Angola Festival is more than just an annual celebration—it’s a journey into
rediscovering the rich history of the Angolan maroon community that once resided at Manatee
Mineral Springs.

Back to Angola Festival Sign

During Spanish control of Florida, the territory served as a sanctuary for people escaping British and American slavery. Angola comprised of previously-enslaved African individuals and Native Americans who lived together on this site in the early 1800s. Sometimes referred to as “Black” Seminoles,” this small society of about 800 spent nearly a decade developing infrastructure and farming the fertile land adjacent to the Manatee River.

Unfortunately, in 1821, their community was raided and destroyed after news of a thriving Black community reached American leaders. According to official records of the Bahamian government, 97 individuals from Angola made their way across the peninsula and eventually found refuge at Red Bays on the Bahamian island of Andros. The village of Red Bays is still inhabited today.

computer rendering of Angola Community before its destruction

Back to Angola

As centuries passed, Angola was nearly lost in time. The community’s existence was only recently rediscovered through archaeological explorations, based on the historical insights of community leaders and area professors. Findings from their archaeological digs and research revealed physical artifacts and the legacy of these people. The Back to Angola Festival and the recently-renovated park are now registered on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. The festival serves as a cultural compass, guiding descendants back to the site where Angola thrived hundreds of years ago.

Back to Angola

Since 2018, ancestors, historians, and festival attendees have come together every third week in October to commemorate and celebrate this homecoming. Everyone is invited to participate and learn through hands-on cultural activities like wood carving, basket weaving, and junkanoo dance workshops. Traditional Bahamian cuisine, such as fish and conch fritters, among other delicacies and treats, is prepared on-site for purchase. Speakers share stories and reveal the history of this amazing community, concluding with a soul-stirring reading of the names of the 97 people who were forced to relocate to Red Bays, Andros.