Philadelphia Honors Octavius Catto with Historic Statue

PHL17 Morning News
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While some statues across the country are coming down, one very notable one is going up in Philadelphia. Octavius Catto will be the first African American in the history of Philadelphia to be memorialized with a statue on public land.

Authors Murray Dubin and Daniel Biddle discuss their book Tasting Freedom: Octavius Catto and the Battle for Equality in Civil War America and explain how Catto helped change the course of history in Philadelphia.

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The nearly twelve-foot-tall bronze statue will be located on the south side of City Hall. In addition to the statue itself, pillars will surround Catto representing upturned street cars. Catto pushed an all-white legislature to desegregate street cars in 1867. A stainless steel ballot box resting in front of the statue recognizes his efforts to help secure the right to vote for black men.

"We like to tell audiences that Catto and the men and women around him fought the battle to integrate the street cars ninety years before Rosa Parks, crossed baseball's color line eighty years before Jackie Robinson, marched for voting rights in Philadelphia one hundred years before the march in Selma and encountered many of the same kinds of dangers, if not more so," said Daniel Biddle.

Unfortunately, Catto's major milestones for civil rights would cost him his life. At the age of 32, Catto was assassinated on a racially polarizing election day in October 1871.

Residents in Philadelphia remember Catto for his truly inspiring work and look forward to the city's newest addition.

"Catto is one who literally died for the cause so to have somebody like that we think is phenomenal and well past its time," said Northwest Philadelphia resident Steven Bayne.

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