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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: February 22, 2019 05:33 PM
From: Representative Christopher M. Rabb
To: All House members
Subject: Honoring the life and legacy of Octavius Catto (1839-1871)
Have you ever heard of Octavius Valentine Catto?

Sadly, his prominence and influence have been unduly minimized in our history books. In a very real sense, his efforts helped catapult the long struggle for equality and justice at the heart of all inclusive mass movements in our nation.

Catto was an extraordinary leader, social justice advocate, scholar, athlete, and military officer in the National Guard during the Civil War where he earned the rank of major.

Born free on February 22, 1839, in Charleston, South Carolina, Octavius Catto moved north as a child with his family. He became educated, served as a teacher and became involved in the fight for racial justice during 19th-century Philadelphia.

As a prominent intellectual, political and social leader, he joined Frederick Douglass in recruiting Black men to fight in the Civil War; organized, wrote, spoke and led demonstrations that helped push Pennsylvania lawmakers to ratify the 15th Amendment, which bars voting discrimination on the basis of race; and organized Black citizens and helped bring them to the polls to vote.

On October 10, 1871, at the age of 32, Octavius Catto was assassinated during election-day violence in Philadelphia when rioters opposed to Black suffrage attacked him and other Black men to prevent them from voting.

Catto became a martyr to systemic racism. His profound success and impact in the Philadelphia area have been commemorated and memorialized by a monument to his heroism outside City Hall.

I ask that my colleagues join me in co-sponsoring this resolution honoring the life and legacy of the bold and courageous Octavius Valentine Catto!

Introduced as HR400