Philadelphia to erect first statue of Black individual on public land
Out of the 1,700 statues on public land in Philadelphia, absolutely none depict Black individuals. All of the statues in the city that do are found on private properties. This will no longer be the case come September when a statue of Octavius Catto will be unveiled.
For those unaware, Catto was a famous activist who fought for civil rights in the Philadelphia area in the late 1800s. One of his greatest accomplishments was playing a role in Pennsylvania ratifying the 15th amendment and giving Black people the right to vote, according to Penn Live. Sadly, Catto was murdered on Election Day by a group of white men who were trying to prevent Black people from voting.
“He’s not in any history books kids in high school and middle school have now,” said Murray Dubin, author, with colleague Daniel R. Biddle, of Tasting Freedom: Octavius Catto and the Battle for Equality in Civil War America. “Nobody knows about Catto. He was an extraordinary, forgotten African American, American hero.”
The statue will be unveiled on Sept. 26 on the apron of City Hall.
Philly.com reports that the bronze statue will stand at 12 feet tall and will include a ballot box and five pillars shaped like upturned streetcars in the background, to allude to Catto’s work to desegregate the city’s streetcars.
“What it [the sculpture] tells people is that black lives matter, and everything that means has been a fight for more than a century and a half,” Dubin continued. “It’s not new. The issues aren’t new. … Hearing about Catto reminds you that he died for that fight and that it continues.”