Since 1997, Hasan Davis has been bringing history alive. The Long Climb to Freedom is the first living history performance created by Hasan. Angus Augustus (A.A.) Burleigh's story, from enslavement to scholarship and ministry, is a story of persistence, triumph and determination. It is a testament to the unconquerable spirit of humanity.
This son of an English Sea Captain was born in 1848 aboard a sea freighter on the Atlantic Ocean. His mother, Carlotta, was a woman of color, but due to his father's status both live in relative freedom until Angus was two. At that time A.A.'s father, who was an alcoholic, died. With his death A.A. and his mother had no one to protect them from the realities of a slave nation. They were abducted and taken away from Virginia into Kentucky, where they were sold as slaves.
Rev. A.A. Burleigh 1930.
Hasan Davis as A.A. Burleigh
Burleigh served in Company G, 12th Regiment of the 108th United States Colored Artillery (Heavy). He had attained the rank of SGT. before he muster out in 1866. From there he was invited to attend a new school that had as its founding motto "God hath made of one blood all the peoples of the earth" Berea, as it was called, intended to be an example to the world, Gods word turned mans law, it would become an institution of interracial education like few others.
In 1875, after nearly ten years, Burleigh finished his studies at what is now Berea College, and 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 across the United States, with his wife and three children. In 1889 Burleigh was appointed Chaplain of the General Assembly of Illinois by the Governor. In 1939 Angus Augustus Burleigh, the oldest surviving Berea College alumni, died of health related problems in a Veterans hospital in Los Angeles, California. He was 91 years old.
It has been estimated that during the five years of open conflict that mark the start and finish of the Civil War, more than 186,000 men of color served the Union as soldiers. Thousands more, women, children and elderly, served as non-combat support for the federal cause. Although the United States Colored Troops (U.S.C.T.) represented nearly ten percent of the total fighting force that rallied to preserve a nation and eradicate the institution of slavery, little has been spoken and much less written about their causes, sacrifices or courage.
In 1864, at the height of the Civil War and after 14 years of enslavement, Burleigh escaped his bondage and made his way to Frankfort, Kentucky to join the newly formed United States Colored Troops (USCT). Although the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln clearly stated that it did not intend to free any slaves in Kentucky, Missouri, Delaware or Maryland, by 1864 it was clear that the Union Army would have to recruit new Black soldiers wherever they were willing to join to off set the declining number of whites willing to fight a war that now seemed to be more about slavery than anything else.