Black History

Julian Valdivia is a History Student at the University of Florida in Gainesville, but he’s from Fort Myers, and over the course of this summer he’s been working with the Lee County Black History Society and the Southwest Florida Historical Society to collect oral histories from community elders, mostly in the Fort Myers Dunbar community. Julian works for the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at UF...he’s using this research for his senior thesis which will be about desegregation and integration in Lee County. At the end of the summer all of his work will be available to the public at the local historical societies and at UF’s oral history archive in Gainesville. As summer begins to wind down, we thought it was time to bring Julian in and see how the process has gone.

Jessica Meszaros / WGCU FM

After about 30 years, researchers compiled evidence showing that Manatee Mineral Springs Park in the City of Bradenton was home to escaped slaves. The community was thought to be called Angola. 

Former slaves fled the United States to Florida because it was a safer Spanish territory at the time. Researchers say they came to the Bradenton park because of a small spring that flows just a block from the Manatee River. Now, the National Park Service has reached out, asking the park to apply for official designation of being part of the Underground Railroad Network

Daphney Towns lives in Bradenton, but she’s from the Bahamas. She became interested in the park’s history about a year ago, and is now planning a festival in the summer called “Back to Angola.” 

“We're gonna be bringing a delegation from 40-to-50 persons from the Bahamas," she says. "A lot of them are coming from Red Bays, which are actually descendants of the Seminole Indians. And they're going to be bringing some of their wood carving, their basket weaving, a lot of cultural food, costumes and a small parade where they will be depicting some of the ancestors.”

The “Back to Angola Festival” runs from July 13th through the 15th.

WGCU's Jessica Meszaros speaks with experts about the historical significance of this park.

We’re taking the show on the road to Punta Gorda in Charlotte County in order to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We’re at the The Blanchard House Museum of African American History and Culture of Charlotte County, which is a site along the Florida Black Heritage Trail

Jessica Meszaros / WGCU News

UPDATE: Manatee County removed the Confederate monument in front of the county courthouse at 3:30 AM Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017. A county press release says the statue was broken during removal, and is now in an undisclosed place. 

After a few hundred protesters marched through downtown Bradenton Monday evening, Manatee County commissioners voted Tuesday to remove a Confederate statue from the front of the Manatee County courthouse. Although there were multiple heated interactions and three arrests, the protest ended peacefully.

Manatee County Livestream Video Footage

Activists plan to peacefully protest a Confederate monument in the city of Bradenton on Monday evening. But after a white supremacist rally in Virginia over a similar issue turned deadly, Manatee County law enforcement officials said they want to make sure the public is safe.