Discovering Catto in Philadelphia

Looking through Time: A Historical View of OV Catto

Like every person, O.V. Catto was shaped by his environment and people around him. He left South Carolina at the age of seven and arrived in the Philadelphia region, home to the largest free black community in the North, with strong institution building and long-standing tradition of advocacy for civil rights. Additionally, the region had deep anti-slavery traditions and laws, despite its close economic connections to the Southern cotton economy. Notwithstanding, there were many hostile elements in this new environment, including racial and ethnic conflicts. All of these made a mark on Catto and is part of America's Civil Rights story. Catto's death served as a catalyst in the continuing struggle for social justice and many activities and individuals of that period have connections to him and his legacy.

This timeline places Catto within the context of his life-shaping environments and events fifty years after his death, extending out the American Civil Rights story into the early 20th century. Catto's legacy became an important marker in the black community and among civil rights advocates. He represented the second generation of aspiring young African Americans among the middle class and elites after the American Revolution. Their lives were in stark contrast to those of the majority of blacks, both free and enslaved, in America, who lived in poverty or had fragile existences. Catto marks the wave of activists that marched on in the late 19th century and the subsequent group that matured into the early 20th century. This timeline seeks to show this development. The efforts of all of them evidence the long struggle for equality and justice that has been the American Civil Rights story.