Octavius began his teaching career in a season of revelations.
As the ice melted on the Schuylkill, he and five other colored teachers labored to keep their I.C.Y. pupils focused on Virgil and trigonometry in a semester bursting with livelier facts. Reports of “outrages” and “usages” of Negroes filled the columns of the National Anti-Slavery Standard, Frederick Douglass’ monthly, even the daily papers.
There was talk of reviving the transatlantic slave trade, and defense of “mild slavery” by a president whose line of loyalists ran from Alderman McMullen’s office to the brick-and-marble mansions of the city’s favorite spendthrift, Pierce Butler. The season was the spring of 1859.
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