Excerpts from the book

Get a taste of Tasting Freedom by reading the excerpts below.

... From Preface …

It was election day 1871, and the busy South Street area -- the institutional and emotional heart of the black community -- had been rocked Read More >

Chapter 1: Charleston

ON NOVEMBER 24, 1800, as Thomas Jefferson rode from Monticello in an open four-wheeled phaeton to conclude his campaign for president, Octavius Catto’s grandmother Read More >

Chapter 2: Arm in Arm

THE SPLENDID GAS LAMPS of Pennsylvania Hall were being lit for the first time to illuminate a rare scene. Antislavery orators would stand at the Read More >

Chapter 3: Keep the Flame Burning…

ON A JANUARY DAY in 1844, the nation’s secretary of state described the condition of colored America. The 1840 Census showed that free Negroes in Read More >

Chapter 4: With Giants

OCTAVIUS CATTO WAS nine years old when his father said prayers with the giants. It was late on an October night, past bedtime for children Read More >

Chapter 5: “Lessons”

OCTAVIUS was turning ten. He was not the eldest of the ever-increasing Catto brood, or even the oldest boy. But he took well to all Read More >

Chapter 6: The Irish, the Killers, and Squire McMullen

McMullen. His name was a synonym for power. As a young man, he was "Bull," pugnacious, a fighter, a figure worthy of fear and respect. Read More >

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" Read More >

Chapter 8:

By Octavius's junior year, the I.C.Y.'s reliance on colored teachers for colored pupils had drawn so much notice that visitors from other states came to Read More >

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 Read More >

Chapter 10: The Wolf Killers

On a winter night in 1860, a northbound train pulled into Cincinnati and disgorged forty bedraggled colored women and children. They were ending a journey of Read More >

Chapter 11: Manhood

Philadelphia greeted war with two faces. Aside from Chestnut Street, busy with people reading the latest war news on boards outside the newspaper offices, the city Read More >

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 Read More >

Chapter 13: Baseball

Negro baseball exploded after the war. Much more that just a growth in exercise or leisure, the tradition of fraternal, social and service organizations was Read More >

Chapter 14: The Hide of the Rhinceros

A novel task confronted Grant in his first months in office -- encourage an entire race to get in the Republican fold and stay there. Read More >

Chapter 15: Election Day

The sun began climbing the sky at 6:07 a.m. Within twenty-five minutes, William McMullen was at the polls. They had not opened, but he had Read More >

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, Read More >

More Excerpts Coming Soon!

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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.