In this video segment, writer/actor Hasan Davis portrays Angus Augustus Burleigh, a slave who fought for the Union army during the Civil War. At age 16, Burleigh ran away from his master’s home in Anderson County, Ky., and made his way to the state capital of Frankfort, where he registered for the Union Army. He went on to become one of Berea College’s first African-American graduates. Davis discusses his research into the role as well as some of the obstacles he has overcome in his lifetime.
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During the Civil War, many African Americans fought for the Union Army. Angus Augustus Burleigh was one of these brave men who defended the country that had made him a slave. There were numerous soldiers like Angus whose stories have been forgotten, but are pivotal in our nation’s history.
Although officially neutral, Kentucky was a state divided during the Civil War. Technically, Kentucky was a slave state, but most people did not own slaves. However, Kentuckians did have a lot to lose if slavery was abolished, because they supplied the Southern cotton plantations with slave workers. Thus, the slave trade was very profitable in Kentucky. During the war, the Commonwealth opted to stay in the Union, but there were many Confederate sympathizers within the state, and many joined the Confederate Army. In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln declared that any slave who joined the Union Army would be set free along with their families. Consequently, a flood of slaves rushed to Camp Nelson to enlist. Burleigh spent time at Camp Nelson. In this video segment, actor Hasan Davis portrays Burleigh and details the atrocities of war that he saw while at Camp Nelson.
After the Civil War, Burleigh went on to become a formidable member of society. In 1875, he became Berea College’s first black graduate. After graduation, Burleigh became a preacher and teacher. At one point in his career, he served as Chaplain of the Illinois State Senate. Burleigh lived until 1939.
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