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Tasting freedom : Octavius Catto and the battle for equality in Civil War America
Publication Information:
Philadelphia : Temple University Press, 2010.
Physical Description:
x, 616 p. ; 24 cm.
Charleston -- Arm in arm -- "Keep the flame burning..." -- With giants -- Lessons -- The Irish, the killers, and Squire McMullen -- "Arise, young North" -- How much I yearn to be a man -- A chance on the pavement -- The wolf killers -- Manhood -- The battle for streetcars -- Baseball -- The hide of the rhinoceros -- Election day -- The Venus of the high trapeze -- Epilogue: The legacy.
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Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book 323.092 BID 1 1
Book 323.092 BID 1 1

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Octavius Valentine Catto was an orator who shared stages with Frederick Douglass, a second baseman on Philadelphia's best black baseball team, a teacher at the city's finest black school and an activist who fought in the state capital and on the streets for equal rights. With his racially-charged murder, the nation lost a civil rights pioneer--one who risked his life a century before Selma and Birmingham. In Tasting Freedom Murray Dubin and Pulitzer Prize winner Dan Biddle painstakingly chronicle the life of this charismatic black leader--a "free" black whose freedom was in name only. Born in the American south, where slavery permeated everyday life, he moved north where he joined the fight to be truly free--free to vote, go to school, ride on streetcars, play baseball and even participate in July 4th celebrations. Catto electrified a biracial audience in 1864 when he proclaimed, "There must come a change," calling on free men and women to act and educate the newly freed slaves. With a group of other African Americans who called themselves a "band of brothers," they challenged one injustice after another. Tasting Freedom presents the little-known stories of Catto and the men and women who struggled to change America.

Author Notes

Daniel R. Biddle , the Philadelphia Inquirer 's Pennsylvania editor, has worked in nearly every phase of newspaper reporting and editing. His investigative stories on the courts won a Pulitzer Prize and other national awards. He has been a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and has taught at the University of Pennsylvania. Murray Dubin , author of South Philadelphia: Mummers, Memories and the Melrose Diner , was a reporter and editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer for 34 years before leaving the newspaper in 2005.

Reviews 2

Choice Review

Many know the work of Frederick Douglass, the foremost African American activist for black civil rights in the 19th century. But few are aware of other Civil War-era black activists, such as Octavius Catto of Philadelphia. Catto was a part of the city's black intelligentsia and a vigorous proponent of equal rights. He taught at the Institute for Colored Youth, guiding former slaves. He worked with local leaders to end racial discrimination, including discrimination on the city's streetcars. He encouraged black men to vote at a time when Philadelphia whites often tried to scare blacks away from exercising their political rights. Catto became a martyr to his cause when, at age 32, he was gunned down in Philadelphia's 1871 election-day riot. Biddle and Dubin, experienced journalists with The Philadelphia Inquirer, have done a commendable job of digging into the elusive records of Catto's life. They present a clear and compelling portrait of this significant early civil rights activist; they also present a thoughtful assessment of how Catto's efforts relate to the modern black civil rights movement. Students, scholars, and the general public will benefit from this study. Summing Up: Recommended. University and public libraries. R. Detweiler California Polytechnic State University--San Luis Obispo

Library Journal Review

Killed in an 1871 Philadelphia Election Day riot to keep blacks from voting, Octavius Valentine Catto (1839-71) was a gifted schoolteacher, spellbinding classical orator, and first-rate second baseman. Most important, he was a civil rights activist. With fellow blacks who called themselves a "band of brothers," Catto pushed to desegregate streetcars, secure voting rights, and demand rigor in schools in Pennsylvania and its self-styled City of Brotherly Love during the turbulent Civil War era. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Biddle and his retired Philadelphia Inquirer colleague Dubin here recount Catto's life. In brightly written, accessible, detail-packed prose, they follow Catto from birth in Charleston, SC, through his family's move north, his schooling, and his camaraderie with the likes of black leaders such as Frederick Douglass. The captivating story illustrates the too often neglected street battles for black rights in northern cities long before the hot summers of the 1960s. VERDICT Biddle and Dubin have produced an entrancing portrait of a leading Renaissance man for equal rights; their book demands attention from students of the theme, time, and place. Nothing matches it at the moment as a prequel to Thomas J. Sugrue's much-noted Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North.-Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Introduction:"A Hundred O.V. Cattos"p. 1
Chapter 1 Charlestonp. 5
Chapter 2 Arm in Armp. 27
Chapter 3 "Keep the Flame Burning..."p. 59
Chapter 4 With Giantsp. 77
Chapter 5 Lessonsp. 93
Chapter 6 The Irish, the Killers, and Squire McMullenp. 115
Chapter 7 "Arise, Young North"p. 139
Chapter 8 "How Much I Yearn to be a Man"p. 169
Chapter 9 A Chance on the Pavementp. 205
Chapter 10 The Wolf Killersp. 247
Chapter 11 Manhoodp. 281
Chapter 12 The Battle for the Streetcarsp. 323
Chapter 13 Baseballp. 355
Chapter 14 The Hide of the Rhinocerosp. 377
Chapter 15 Election Dayp. 421
Chapter 16 The Venus of the High Trapezep. 441
Epilogue: The Legacyp. 473
Acknowledgmentsp. 487
Notesp. 491
Bibliographyp. 569
Indexp. 603
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