Chapter 12: The Battle for the Streetcars

It was like the pigs’ snouts and offal that graced the Schuylkill after any substantial rain, floating down from the houses and butcher shops of Francisville and lingering there by the swimmers and picnickers. Gentlemen did not mention the thoughts that flared in a white man’s mind when he saw a black man near a white woman. Much less, sitting beside her in a horse-drawn car.

Mayor Henry had blurted it out. A delegation of Quakers and businessmen went to him with a grievance: Police were taking sides, helping car conductors remove obstinate colored riders. Could the mayor put a stop to this? Henry, who had so impressed abolitionists by having policemen protect their meetings, refused. Furthermore, he said, “I do not wish the ladies of my family to ride in the car with colored people.”

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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.