New Live Drama on First Black Priest in U.S. Opens October 5 for National Tour

Tolton: From Slave to Priest, a riveting new drama, opens on October 5, 2017, at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Portland, Oregon. Tolton tells the inspiring true story of the former slave and first Black Catholic priest in the United States, Fr. Augustus Tolton (1854-1897).  Opening just ahead of Black Catholic Month in November, Tolton recognizes Fr. Tolton’s historical importance and creates a greater awareness of his path to sainthood. The one-man, multimedia production is enhanced by a cast of filmed characters on a video backdrop and evocative, newly-composed music by Tony Manfredonia. “It’s an honor to bring to life this American hero, the first African American priest,” says lead actor Andrae Goodnight. “I pray this drama will be an instrument of conversion and reconciliation for our country.”

Fr. Augustus Tolton overcame incredible odds to become the very first Black priest in the United States. Born a slave on a Missouri farm in 1854, Augustus Tolton escaped to freedom with his courageous mother, sister, and baby brother across the Mississippi River to the town of Quincy, Illinois. Even there the family continued to experience hardships and persecution. Young Augustus was even sent away from the local Catholic school because of the color of his skin.  In spite of all this, his faith was unshakable, and he persevered in his deep desire to become a Catholic priest. Every seminary in the United States rejected him. At last, in a remarkable turn of events, he was ordained in Rome. Upon his return to the U.S., he tirelessly served people of all races, especially the former slaves who flocked to Chicago. “It was the priests of the Church who taught me to pray and to forgive my persecutors,” he said. “We should welcome all people into the Church, not send them away.” Fr. Tolton’s reputation for holiness grew as he ministered in Quincy, Chicago, and wherever he traveled to preach. At the young age of 43, on July 9, 1897, Fr. Tolton collapsed from heat exhaustion and died.

Actor Andrae Goodnight brings a wealth of diverse experience to the role of Fr. Tolton, including work in theater, film, youth ministry, public service, and radio. He and his wife Cheryl are converts to the Catholic faith and the parents of six children. More information about him, the drama, and Saint Luke Productions can be found at To schedule interviews with the writer and producer, Leonardo Defilippis, or actor Andrae Goodnight, contact Lisa Meany at or 360-487-9979. To book a show, contact Jeff Hauge at or 360-831-4500.