Chapter 9: A Chance on the Pavement

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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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.