Acclaim for Tasting Freedom

“…a towering, persuasive narrative that recounts the precarious condition of blacks in nineteenth-century Philadelphia, the determination with which they expected change, the preparation and skill necessary for African American leaders of the period, and the wealthy heritage they bequeathed to their progeny.”

Journal of American History

September 2011



“Daniel Biddle and Murray Dubin have brought to life a leader of the Civil War-era struggle against slavery and for equal rights for blacks. This dramatic book not only rescues the intrepid Octavius Catto from obscurity but reminds us that this struggle—and the violent opposition to it—long predated the modern civil rights era.”

Eric Foner

DeWitt Clinton Professor of History, Columbia University



“This is a great story and a compelling history of the original civil rights movement—with its own Dr. King. In Tasting Freedom, Biddle and Dubin bring to light a hero whose footprints helped lead America through the challenges of racial injustice: Octavius Catto. The story is both riveting and elucidative”

Juan Williams

Author of Eyes on the Prize and Thurgood Marshall




Octavius Valentine Catto was a second baseman on Philadelphia’s best black base-ball team, a teacher at the city’s finest black school, an activist who fought in the state capital and on the streets for equal rights, and an orator who shared the stage with Frederick Douglass. With his murder during an election-day race riot in 1871, the nation lost a civil rights pioneer—one who risked his life a century before the events that took place in Selma and Birmingham.

Tasting Freedom presents the little-known stories of Catto and the men and women who struggled to change America. This book will change your understanding of civil rights history.


People of Catto’s World

Excerpt from the Book

Chapter 16: TheVenus of the High Trapeze
Chapter 16: TheVenus of the High Trapeze

The trial of Frank Kelly began the next morning. A spacious new Common Pleas courtroom at Sixth and Chestnut streets, the product of Stokley's building boom, filled quickly. A squad of court officers -- tipstaves, they were called -- combed the Read More >

Connect with Catto's History

Meet the Authors

When they are not writing, Dan Biddle and Murray Dubin love to talk -- especially about the book. Invite them to speak to your book club, church, college class, civil war commemoration, fraternal group, library event, historical association meeting and more.
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Video Introduction



We like to talk. Our publicist put us in front of a video camera, asked three questions and then crossed his fingers. We're probably a little too serious at the beginning, but we loosen up as the video goes on.
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A Call to Arms

Click to get a closer look, you can see the name of Octavius Catto at the bottom, as well as his father's.

This broadside is eight feet high and was seen on windows in downtown Philadelphia in June, 1863, as black leaders called a meeting to convince black men to join the Union Army prior to Gettysburg.