View Full Version : Philadelphia Is Getting Its 1st Statue To Honor An African-American

The Bobster
09-01-2017, 09:23 AM

Philadelphia Is Getting Its 1st Statue To Honor An African-American
August 31, 2017 11:47 AM By Mike DeNardo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) –– Philadelphia next month erects its first statue honoring an African-American. City social studies teachers are learning about the man being memorialized, civil rights activist Octavius Catto. :mad:

At a time when there’s a national debate about taking monuments down, Philadelphia is putting one up, honoring voting rights activist Octavius Catto. At a daylong session at the National Constitution Center on Thursday, 70 Philadelphia teachers were getting indoctrinated about how Catto was killed by a white mob on election day 1871 :D, says School District curriculum specialist Yaasiyn Muhammad.

“The monuments become an educational piece when there’s an educational program built around it. And that’s what we’re trying to do with this Octavius Catto monument,” said Muhammad.

Kensington CAPA history teacher Ismael Jiminez says, “I try to incorporate it within the larger story in the context of Philadelphia history and specifically the African-American experience.” :mad:

Mayor Banana Nose Kenney, welcoming the teachers, says the Catto story is one all should know.

“I think our kids, not only the African-American children or Latino children, children of color need to know these stories. I think the white kids need to know these stories,” said Kenney.

The teachers were given instructional materials including a copy of a Catto biography, and a movie on his life by History Making Productions, the documentary firm run by former Philadelphia mayoral candidate Sam Katz.

The Catto statue is being dedicated Sept. 26 on the South City Hall apron.

The Bobster
09-26-2017, 09:37 AM

Catto Memorial To Be Formally Dedicated At City Hall
September 25, 2017 11:00 PM By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Octavius V. Catto was a 19th Century scholar :rolleyes: and activist who was the best known black political figure of his time. On Tuesday, he’ll become the first African-American to get his own memorial statue on Philadelphia-owned property.

It was a 13 year effort.

The Octavius V Catto Memorial Fund was created in 2004 and among his champions is Mayor Jim "Banana Nose" Kenney, who has been determined to memorialize the South Philadelphia scholar, educator, and athlete. Born in 1839, Octavius V. Catto’s many accomplishments include the successful desegregation of horse-drawn street cars in Pennsylvania :mad:, the recruitment of Black soldiers for the Civil War :mad: and a get out the vote effort that had black men waiting in line at the polls to cast their ballot on Election Day 1870 as early as 4 a.m. :mad:

Photo of Octavius V. Catto from around 1870. (credit “Tasting Freedom.”)

“I was embarrassed that I had this hole in my knowledge and a little angry that I didn’t learn this in high school or college when I went to school here in Philadelphia,” says Murray Dubin. :eek:

He and Daniel Biddle spent decades working at the Philadelphia Inquirer, yet they had never heard about Catto, a man who was assassinated on Election Day in 1871. :D Both of the men stumbled upon Catto separately and became obsessed. Then they decided to work together, taking seven years to research and write their book Tasting Freedom: Octavius V. Catto and the Battle for Equality in Civil War America.

“He was an extraordinary man whose breadth of accomplishment is so hard to believe because when he died he was in his early 30s :rolleyes:,” says Dubin.

Catto was murdered near 8th and South Streets as he walked home. His killer was Frank Kelly, a white man who was a political operative working for the Democratic party. At the time, African-American men had won the right to vote thanks to the 15th Amendment, which passed in 1869, and their loyalty was to Republicans, the party of Abraham Lincoln.

“Catto was probably the best known black political figure at the time of his death,” says Biddle, who notes Catto was murdered “execution style” in front of dozens of witnesses.

His assassin was on the run for years and was brought back to Philadelphia by a Republican in need of the “black vote.” :mad: But even after a trial, Kelly walked free. :p

“I think the legacy of Catto is that even against terrible of odds a small group of people, young or old, can change the world,” says Biddle, “and he did.”

Catto’s statute will be unveiled Tuesday at 11 a.m. on the Southwest Apron of City Hall. There will be more on his legacy Tuesday evening on CBS3 Eyewtiness News.