Chapter 7: “Arise, Young North”

On March 4, 1853, two grand inaugurations occurred. In blizzard-bound Washington, President Franklin Pierce asked twenty thousand listeners to respect “the rights of the South” and obey the laws of the Compromise of 1850 “cheerfully.” In Philadelphia, Charles Reason inaugurated the Library and Reading Room of the Institute for Colored Youth.

The library began with 13,000 volumes, from Rural Chemistry and Civil Engineering to biographies of Julius Caesar, Marie Antoinette, Hannibal, Isaac Newton, William Penn, Cortez and Patrick Henry. Also, lives of religious greats: Martin Luther, Mohammed, the Quaker George Fox; histories of Egypt, Rome, Macedonia, Persia, New York City and — notwithstanding Noah Webster’s views — Africa.

“Education ought to be and must be a family ambition, an inbred pride, a universal emulation,” Reason told his audience that night. “It must become a habit.”

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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.