Who was Octavius Catto?


by Tommy Rowan | The Inquirer

With Tuesday’s unveiling of Philadelphia’s first public statue honoring a specific African American — the educator, baseball player, and civil rights activist Octavius V. Catto — we explain who Catto was and why he is being memorialized.

Name was Octavius Valentine Catto.

Born a free black man on Feb. 22, 1839, in Charleston, S.C.

Taught at the Institute of Colored Youth (precursor of Cheyney University), and later rose to principal.

Captained the Pythians, a professional baseball team. Catto also played shortstop and second base.

Served in the Pennsylvania National Guard, where he earned the rank of major.

Joined Frederick Douglass in recruiting black men to fight in the Civil War.

Organized sit-ins and protests and successfully desegregated Philadelphia streetcars.

Wrote, spoke and led demonstrations that helped push Pennsylvania lawmakers to ratify the 15th Amendment, which bars voting discrimination on the basis of race.

Organized the now-enfranchised black citizens and helped bring them to the polls to vote.

Was assassinated on Oct. 10, 1871, in Philadelphia. He was gunned down by rioters on South Street as he was urging blacks to vote. It was Election Day. He was 32.

Memorialized on Sept. 26, 2017, with a statue outside of City Hall.

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