Discovering Catto in Philadelphia
Catto lived in the world of the 19th century African American middle class and elite. His life was not like that of the majority of blacks in both South Carolina and Philadelphia, who either enslaved or free were poor and little access to education. He was born into a privileged mulatto family, the DeReefs, in Charleston South Carolina. In Philadelphia, his father, as a prominent minister, joined the black middle class, which was also composed of businessmen, school teachers, and professionals. They were small minority population with the black community in Philadelphia. It was this life that made Catto's extraordinary education possible and how he built ties with black and white leaders, locally and nationally. This life also opened up ways for him to become the strong advocate for justice and equality, seeking to end slavery and expand for African Americans both opportunities and the rights and privileges that whites had at that time. This section features people in Catto's world. Do you know who they are? Students can be tasked to explore them more deeply through project work.