Black clergy, local officials remember legacy of voting rights activist, Octavius V. Catto

Octavius V. Catto WikiCommons/ Unknown

On Sunday, October 10, the Black Clergy of Philadelphia & Vicinity will reportedly co-host an event in honor of Octavius V. Catto. The Office of Philadelphia City Commissioners will also host the event on Sunday. The Philadelphia Sunday Sun reported how the public Sesquicentennial Commemoration of Catto’s assassination would be observed from 2 to 4 pm. 

The participants will convene at the O.V. Catto Statue, Southwest of the Philadelphia City Hall. In a previous report by The Philadelphia Tribune, the Black Clergy, along with state and local legislators, convened at the Catto statue to discuss the use of funding for violence prevention.

150 Years Since Octavius V. Catto's Assassination

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Sunday Sun noted how Reverend Robert Collier Sr., the president of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity, noted that the event was created with the purpose of ‘observing the 150th anniversary of the assassination of Octavius Catto.’

Rev. Collier opened up about this ‘first opportunity for Philadelphians to honor’ Catto since the Catto statue was installed at the Philadelphia City Hall. The pastor lauded Catto as a ‘voting rights activist, military leader, community leader, martyr, and the first African American educator.’

Program During 150th Commemoration

The event is set to kick off at the historic Saint Thomas African Episcopal Church on Lancaster Avenue. Procession Marshall Joe Certaine is set to lead the Military Color Guard of Honor, further conducted by Boy Scout Troop #133, BSA, the report unveiled. Moreover, members of the O.V. Catto Elks Lodge #20 (IBPOEW) will also reportedly escort the participants. They will be joined by their Exalted Ruler Gregory Freeman who will be speaking during the commemoration.

The report further took note of how Saint Thomas African Episcopal Church rector Father Martin Shaw will speak during the event. Also, Philadelphia City Commissioners Chair Lisa M. Deeley is among the speakers. Art Sudler will also speak on behalf of AECST. Commissioners Al Schmidt and Omar Sabir will also give their talk at the event.

Other notable people invited to speak at the 150th commemoration include Cheyney University President Aaron A. Walton. Also, NAACP Philadelphia Branch president Catherine Hicks has been invited.

Voting Rights Education

The report added how Rev. Collier of the Black Clergy is set to be one of the speakers at the commemoration. Ahead of the event, he shared how they will ‘continue to witness efforts to dismantle voting rights in Pennsylvania and many other states.’ He further stressed how the Black Clergy ‘understands, as an organization, of how its mission is more critical than ever.’

Rev. Collier emphasized the need ‘to continue to educate the community about the importance of getting registered and then voting on Election Day.’ The pastor stressed how ‘without voting, we have no voice.’ He further expressed how the organization chose to work with the City Commissioners for this initiative. He said, among the reasons would be ‘to keep spreading the message about why we must all register and vote.’ 

Remembering Octavius Catto’s Legacy

The report took note of Octavius Valentine Catto for ‘his fierce advocacy for civil rights and equality.’ In particular, he was remembered for his work fighting for such rights in the military, professional sports, as well as in public transportation some time in the 19th century. 

Though Catto is noted as an educator by profession, he reportedly was at the forefront in registering African American men to vote. The foremost Black activist in Pennsylvania then reportedly participated in the first Election Day. The event itself was made possible by the passage of the 15th Amendment in 1871.

Catto was noted for ‘actively seeking the Black vote in Philadelphia to swing a divided electorate to the candidacy of Colonel William B. Mann,’ a Civil War hero. Then, Mann ran for the office of District Attorney with the Republicans. 

On October 10, 1871, Catto reportedly worked even harder to get the Black vote. This act reportedly gained him much hatred. And on that day, a group of white men reportedly ‘shot Catto in the back, killing him almost instantly.’

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