The Octavius V. Catto Memorial
A Quest for Parity
This ground-breaking memorial is in deliberate dialogue with its site, which is both the center of government and a major transportation hub. Comprised of various sculptural elements including a 10-foot bronze sculpture of Octavius V. Catto, the memorial celebrates the Civil-War-era educator’s efforts to ensure freedom of movement, desegregation and civic engagement, namely the right to vote.
A granite abstraction of an 1860’s horse-drawn streetcar stands behind the figure of Catto, who, a century before Rosa Parks, sought to desegregate the horse-drawn streetcar by waging protests and sit-ins. A steel representation of a mid-nineteenth century ballot box reflects Catto’s efforts to get the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ratified in Pennsylvania, giving all men — regardless of race — the right to vote. The granite forms of the horse-drawn streetcar and the ballot box are engraved and adorned with text and bronze bas-relief plaques depicting various aspects of Catto’s contributions to education, the military, sports, activism, and leadership.
The reflective surfaces of the granite and the ballot box—along with Catto’s outstretched arms—serve as open and ongoing invitations to the public to see themselves as not only the inheritors of Catto’s envisioned future but also as active agents of change.
Listed below are some of the resources, talented individuals, institutions and groups who each had a hand in helping to birth this memorial:
"Tasting Freedom: Octavius Catto and the Battle for Equality in Civil War America" by D. Biddle & M. Dubin
"Murder of Octavius Catto" by A. Smith
"The Forgotten Hero" by D. Biddle & M. Dubin
The Library Company of Philadelphia
Historical Society of Pennsylvannia
Pennsylvannia Trolley Museum
Octavius V. Catto Memorial Fund
V. Chapman Smith
The Roz Group
The Philadelphia Foundation
Philadelphia City Hall
Hon. James Kenney
The Lighting Practice
Polich Tallix Foundry
Michael Zetlin, Esq.
Consuelo Vasquez, Esq.
Nancy Chung, Esq.
Akin Gump LLP
There are many more people involved, both seen and unseen, whom I've, no doubt, left off this list. If there are any omissions, they are an oversight on my part and not a reflection of the immense gratitude I feel.