Angus Augustus Burleigh's journey, from enslavement to scholarship and ministry, is a story of persistence, triumph and determination. Burleigh’s life is a testament to the unconquerable spirit of humanity. His story must be told.
A. Hasan Davis
A son of an English Sea Captain, Angus Augustus Burleigh was born in 1848 aboard a sea freighter on the Atlantic Ocean. His mother, Carlotta, was a woman of color.
Due to Burleigh’s father's status, Burleigh and his mother lived in Virginia in relative freedom until Burleigh was two. At that time his father, an alcoholic, died. With his death Burleigh and his mother had no one to protect them from the realities of a slave nation. They were abducted, taken into Kentucky, and sold into slavery.
In 1864, after 14 years of enslavement, Burleigh escaped his bondage. At the height of the Civil War, he made his way to Frankfort, Kentucky to join the newly formed United States Colored Troops (USCT). Burleigh served in Company G, 12th Regiment of the 108th United States Colored Artillery (Heavy). He had attained the rank of Sargent when he mustered out in 1866.
After he was discharged, Burleigh met John G. Fee on April 24, 1866 at Camp Nelson in Kentucky. Fee invited him to attend Berea College. Fee had founded Berea College with the motto "God hath made of one blood all nations of men." Burleigh enthusiastically accepted the offer and arrived at Berea on foot after a long trip from Camp Nelson. Burleigh was one of the first African American males to attend and graduate from Berea College. He graduated in 1875 with an A.B. and A.M. degree in Classics.
After Burleigh finished his studies, he headed to Wilberforce in Xenia, Ohio where he married on Thanksgiving Day. From there he began more than four decades of education and ministry that led him, his wife and three children across the United States. In 1889 Burleigh was appointed Chaplain of the General Assembly of Illinois by the Governor. In 1939, Angus Augustus Burleigh died in a Veterans hospital in Los Angeles, He was 91 years old.
With the support of the Kentucky Humanities Council and Berea College, Hasan Davis conducted extensive research into the life of A.A. Burleigh. Using, primary and secondary sources Hasan created Burlleigh's story. He has shared this Chautauqua with audiences in over thirty states.