Tragedy and Survival: Bicentennial of the Southward Movement of Black Seminoles on the Gulf Coast

Prospect Bluff draft April 2016 
Manatee Mineral Spring Draft April 2016

Commemorating a Bicentennial of Tragedy and Survival:
July 27, 1816 US Naval forces destroyed the fort at Prospect Bluff on the Apalachicola River; survivors fled southward. In recognition of the bicentennial of the tragic loss of hundreds of lives, a Florida Humanities Council supported project to create digital reconstructions of the Black Seminole/maroon landscape for two of the locations for public presentation will be shown on this website and presented to the public in late summer 2016. 

This page provides the sequence for the program from June 2015 through November 2016. The revamped information on the program, including free access to the virtual worlds of early 19th century Prospect Bluff and the Manatee Mineral Spring, is available at: 

The reconstruction of the early 19th century maroon landscapes grows out of an expanding scholarship on the maroons of Second Spanish period Florida.  See references for the scholarship that informs the commemoration. The project receives insights from an advisory committee of several distinguished scholars. See the brochure for the project hereFor specific information on the project, or comments/questions, please contact Uzi Baram, Project Director, <>. 

The Sweep of History:
The events of July 1816 swept down the Gulf Coast of Florida. After the destruction of the Prospect Bluff fort, survivors fled to the Suwanee River; the 1818 Battle of Suwanee pushed some of the maroons further south, to Tampa Bay, to Angola on the Manatee River; in 1821, the maroon communities were attacked, again; survivors fled inland or to Cape Florida, to the British Bahamas where their descendants lived in freedom. For a detailed timeline, see chronology

For a two minute, twenty second video overview, see

Tragedy and Survival: the Southward Movement of Black Seminoles


The Project:
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. This project will use the opportunities of new digital heritage technologies to represent two of the locations for the saga: the fort at Prospect Bluffs, known as the Negro Fort, which was destroyed in 1816 and Angola, overrun in 1821. Two hundred years ago, people struggled for freedom and their descendants continued the fight, in the Second Seminole War (1835-1842) or by falling back and finding a haven in the Bahamas. The scholars will discuss the history and explain the reconstructions at public lectures at or near the two locations: Apalachicola/Fort Gadsden and Bradenton/Sarasota. 

The digital reconstructions are in the capable keystrokes and mouse of Digital Heritage Interactive

The Places Today:
View of Apalachicola Site
View of Bradenton site
Whether looking from a top view or from a landscape perspective, today there are only interpretative signs visible at the maroon community locations. 
Plan of the Fort at Prospect Bluff - Image on Display at Fort Gadsden Historic Park

Angola sign
Sign for Angola - Panel on Display at Reflections of Manatee, Inc.

Digital Heritage Consultants will use the best current scholarship to reconstruct, virtually, the landscape for these early 19th-century communities. The digital reconstructions will be able online, for transnational viewing; please visit the locations:
For Prospect Bluff: Fort Gadsden Historic Site in the Apalachicola National Forest 
For the Manatee Mineral Spring: visit Reflections of Manatee, Inc.

The Challenge of Names:
The title for this commemoration includes Black Seminoles. The term is one of several that can describe the people who lived in Second Spanish Period Florida (1783-1821). Black Seminoles connects to popular terminology for the Second Seminole War period (1835-42); other labels include African Seminoles, self-emancipated people of African heritage, maroons, run-away slaves, escaped slaves, and the freedom-seeking people. The multiplicity of terms respectfully reflects the fluidity and changes over time.

The US military document label the fortification at Prospect Bluff –Spanish name was Loma de Buenavista and the Creek called it Achaikwheithle - on the Apalachicola River as Negro Fort. For 21st century ears, the term Negro Fort might be uncomfortable but right now it is the name that is used in scholarship and in the interpretation of the site. This project will focus on the geographic name: Prospect Bluff. For the community on the Manatee River, the archives offered Angola and Sarrazota, we use Angola to stress the African heritage for the community and to avoid confusion with today's Sarasota (the origin of the name is the subject of popular and academic disputes) and note the project focuses on one aspect of the diffuse community, the area by the Manatee Mineral Spring.  

The Challenge of Sources:
Our view today of the maroon communities comes from the archives and limited archaeological excavations. The archives offer the perspective of the U.S. military - the plans of the Negro Fort and the Suwanee settlement and information on military engagements and geography; observations from the aftermath of destruction of maroon communities rather than accounts by Black Seminoles. 

Archaeological Excavations:
Important information on geography and British influence for the maroon communities comes from archaeology. 

1961-62 Excavations by Stephen R. Poe reveal the destroyed magazine of the Negro Fort; published in 1963 as Archaeological excavations at Fort Gadsden, Florida. Notes in Anthropology # 8. Tallahassee: Florida State University Anthropology Department.
Artifacts from the military engagement at Prospect Bluff
Images from display at Fort Gadsden Historic Park

2007-13 Uzi Baram led excavations revealing material traces of Angola; published as The Historical Archaeology of Looking for Angola at 8Ma103: Excavations and Public Outreach by the Manatee Mineral Spring, Manatee County, Florida, on file at the Florida Master Site Files.
 Published in Baram Radical Openess 
Excavations in Bradenton, Looking for Angola

Funding for this program was provided through a grant from the Florida Humanities Council with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed on this website do not necessarily represent those of the Florida Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.
As an exercise in radical openness, the digital reconstructions were vetted in front of several audiences from 2015-2106.

Dr. Edward Gonzalez-Tennant October 21, 2015 Selby Public Library 6 pm - The Future of the Past: How Virtual Technologies are Changing Archaeology, sponsored by Time Sifters Archaeological Society
Gonzalez-TennantDr. Edward Gonzalez-Tennant

Sarasota: Professor Uzi Baram May 18, 2016 Selby Public Library 6 pm - Rivers of Freedom, Landscapes of Liberty: An Update on “Looking for Angola” and the Archaeology of Maroons in Floridasponsored by Time Sifters Archaeological Society
Time Sifters audience for Uzi Baram and Smitty 
Time Sifters audience
Uzi Baram and Time Sifters VP Smitty Smith

Apalachicola, Florida, August 13, 2016: Vickie Oldham, Professor Uzi Baram, and Dr. Edward Gonzalez-Tennant
Remembering the Apalachicola River Maroons of 1816: Heritage, Archaeology, and Digital Reconstructions.
August 2016 Presentation
Great audience at the Apalachicola Center for History, Culture, and Art
Full house at Center for History Culture Art
Vickie August 2016  Uzi August 2016 Ed August 2016
The Speakers: Vickie Oldham, Uzi Baram, and Ed Gonzalez-Tennant

Bradenton, Florida, September 10, 2016: Vickie Oldham, Professor Uzi Baram, Dr. Edward Gonzalez-Tennant Remembering the Manatee River Maroons of 1821: Heritage, Archaeology and Digital Reconstructions
Bradenton Flyer

Great community engagement at the Manatee County Central Library presentation.
Bradenton audience 2016

You can watch the presentation on YouTube - it is 90 minutes long:

Remembering the Manatee River Maroons of 1821

For a brief fly-through through virtual world for Angola:

Fly-through Angola Digital Reconstruction

For a brief fly-through through the virtual world for the Prospect Bluff Fort:

Fly-through the Reconstructed Landscape at Prospect Bluff

Below are the links to the two virtual worlds; please use Firefox (the programs do not work on Chrome). For a quick tutorial in maneuvering through the landscapes, see  

Tutorial on "walking" through the Landscapes

 The online Virtual Worlds are available now via FireFox
Virtual World for the Fort
First Screen for VR Prospect Bluff
The Landscape at 1821 Manatee Mineral Spring

Coming soon;  free downloads will allow anyone, but hopefully teachers, use these programs to experience the landscapes of freedom in early 1800s Gulf Coast Florida. 
Here is New College of Florida student Hayley Trejo at the Manatee Mineral Spring landscape.
Hayley Trejo

Central Goal for Tragedy and Survival: Bicentennial of the Southward Movement of Black Seminoles on the Gulf Coast: inspire further interest, study, and research into the history and heritage of the early 19th century events and peoples.

Beyond this project, 
interested readers can check out novels about or including the events at Prospects Bluffs in 1816 - descriptions of the four novels, all recently published. The project began with Looking for Angola, and continues the spirit of that endeavor


The gadget spec URL could not be found