Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Celebrating the birthday of Octavius Catto, a Philadelphia civil rights hero

By Tamala Edwards, Tuesday, February 23, 2021 12:11AM

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- February 22 is the birthday of a Philadelphia civil rights hero, and it
 happens to fall during Black History Month.

Octavius Valentine Catto was born in 1839, and a statue of him is positioned prominently on the 
south side of City Hall.

Many who admire him and study his life believe he still remains a hero who is hidden in history.

Some do see the parallels between the lives of Martin Luther King Jr. and Catto.

"They were born to relative Black privilege and used that privilege, and used that access to 
different ideas and people, to lead and try to improve the lives of others around them," said 
Ivan Henderson, the programming Vice President of the African-American Museum in Philadelphia.

Henderson also points to a transportation boycott, not in Montgomery, Alabama... but right here in

The streetcar boycott is reenacted in the documentary series Philadelphia: The Great Experiment.

Catto led an effort to desegregate streetcars. The documentary series also details how Catto fought 
for voting rights for African Americans.

He was killed on Election Day 1871 a few doors down from his South Street home, shot by a man 
who believed Blacks voting was a threat to the Irish-American community. Read more

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