In honor of Black History month we would like to dedicate an article about Angus Augustus Burleigh (c1848 – 1931), who was an influential African American graduate of Berea College. Serving in the Union Army during the Civil War, he later became a minster in California.
Angus Burleigh was born in 1848, somewhere on the Atlantic Ocean. He was the son of an African American mother – Charlotta De Dasco – and a sea captain of English descent, Charles A. Burleigh. His mother’s descent is unclear, because Burleigh himself was known to have declared her of Moorish descent from Granada, Spain, whereas many other sources indicated her as African American slave born in Florida. As for Burleigh, he was born free, but due to his father’s death, Burleigh and his mother were forced into slavery. At first, they served as slaves in Virginia and later were moved to Kentucky.
On August 22, 1864, at the age of sixteen, he enlisted in Co. G. 12thU.S. Colored Heavy Artillery at Camp Nelson, Kentucky. By November 2, 1865, he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. On April 24, 1866, when Burleigh was discharged he met John G. Fee, who invited him to attend Berea College. 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.
Burleigh had various career paths and professions. He was a minister at an African Methodist Episcopal Church and served as chaplain in the U.S. Army from around 1874 to 1906. He also served as a schoolteacher, salesperson and farmer.
On November 25th, 1875 Burleigh married Louisa E. Shaffer in Greene County, Ohio. They had three children: two sons – Otto F. and Cornelius H., and one daughter – Benitta. Throughout his life he lived in various places of the United States, such as Illinois, New York, Wisconsin, Indiana and California. He settled permanently in Hermosa Beach, California.
Burleigh died on May 24th, 1938 at the age of 93 in the National Military Home in the Veteran’s Administration Facility in Los Angeles. He was buried in Los Angeles, California. In the early 1930s, Burleigh was considered the oldest living Berea College graduate.
LIST OF WORKS
A.A. Burleigh wrote a booklet called John G. Fee Founder of Berea College. In his booklet, he shared his knowledge of John G. Fee’s biography, as well as his own memories of meeting and working Fee. The booklet extensively narrates the early history and construction of Berea College.