Out of 1,700 public statues erected throughout the city, this is the first one dedicated to an individual African American figure.
In a report from NBC Philadelphia, the city has unveiled a tribute to Octavius Valentine Catto, an educator, organizer and civil rights activist, honoring him with a statue outside City Hall. Born in 1839, Catto led a civil rights movement in Philadelphia fighting for better education for black students; leading efforts to desegregate city streetcars and pushing for equal voting rights.
Unfortunately, Catto’s fight for civil rights resulted in his death with one of his last accomplishments getting Pennsylvania to ratify the 15th Amendment guaranteeing the right to vote for black men. On October 10, 1871, the first Election Day where black men were allowed to vote, Catto was shot to death on his doorstep by Irish-American ward bosses.
“My hope is that someday, every child in Philadelphia will know as much about Octavius Valentine Catto as they do about Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Martin Luther King,” Mayor Jim Kenney said. Kenney, who first learned of Catto as a city councilman and led a 15-year fight to honor the activist, also referred to him as “a true American hero.”
Branly Cadet, the sculptor who created the statue of Catto, wanted to highlight the values Catto embodied, with the statue also accompanied by five pillars that highlight Catto’s contributions to the city.