Manatee County's little-known haven for escaped slaves

- An archeological dig discovered something unique in the Tampa Bay region: A freedom camp for slaves in Mineral Springs, a community in Bradenton.

"I didn't know about this story so I figured other people didn't know about it either," African American historian Vickie Oldham said.

Oldham found a passage in a book about runaway slaves escaping from plantations and heading south looking for a freedom settlement called Angola.

"They found their haven of safety right here in my backyard," she said.

The Manatee County slave settlement dates back to the 1700's.

"They got here and was able to create a community, one where they could raise their children, take care of their elders, in peace and liberty," said Dr. Uzi Baram, professor of anthropology at New College of Florida in Sarasota.

By 1821, 700 people lived in the community near the Manatee River. They were free to hunt and fish and live their lives.

"Most of the people that lived here considered themselves British subjects," said Dr. Baram. "They had worked with the British in Spanish Florida against the United States."

The encampment was attacked in late 1821 by U.S. troops sent by President Andrew Jackson.

"A punishing raid came in, destroyed the community, a couple hundred people are captured," explained Dr. Baram.  "Most were taken back into enslavement in Georgia."

For Vickie, the story is one of courage, determination, and creativity.

"Its an empowering, inspiring story that I had to tell," she said -- a story all should know.  "There needs to be more stories like this in our history, so that residents in the Tampa Bay area can know that people of color contributed and were here."

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