Discovering Catto in Philadelphia


These webisodes are short films that tell important stories in a condensed, classroom friendly format. Similar to the full length episodes developed by History Making Productions, webisodes feature a rich mix of expert interviews, varied primary sources, and compelling narration. Many webisodes have accompanying educational material to strengthen and deepen student understanding of film content.

Below are a selection of webisodes that are relevant to O.V. Catto's life and to the broader themes of constitutional and civil rights history, particularly in a local Philadelphia context. They were produced to accompany three of History Making Production's documentary projects: Philadelphia: The Great Experiment, The Daring Women of Philadelphia, and Cecil's People.

Philadelphia: The Great Experiment

Baseball: The Philadelphia Game, 8:57

Narrated by former Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, this webisode recounts Philadelphia's central role in the development of the sport of baseball with particular attention paid to the story of Octavius Catto and the Pythians.

A watch-along worksheet includes a Venn Diagram to compare early and modern baseball, a time-line, and an analytical question based on a quotation from the film

Civil Rights: A Movement is Born in Philadelphia, 9:36

From the first written protest against slavery in 1688 through the assassination of Octavius Catto in 1871, this webisode describes major turning points and introduces key players in the battle for freedom and equality in Philadelphia. Former mayor, Michael Nutter, narrates.

A note-taking sheet and a Bingo game are available to help students review and retain the information in the film.

The Volunteers: Firefighters in Philadelphia, 8:26

Firefighting in Philadelphia from the city's earliest years through the professionalization of firefighting in 1871 is recounted with an emphasis on independent fire companies such as the Moyas, the combination street gang, political organization, and firefighting crew who were instrumental in fomenting the anti-black violence that culminated with the assassination of O.V. Catto.

A watch-along worksheet includes a "T-chart" for listing the pros and cons of the independent fire companies, a time-line, and an analytical question based on a quotation in the film.

Urban Renewal: The Remaking of Society Hill, 6:15

This webisode depicts the transformation of Society Hill from a run-down working class neighborhood with a substantial African American population into one of the city's wealthiest communities, raising questions about gentrification and displacement that we continue to struggle with today.

The watch-along worksheet includes fill in the blank questions, a graphic organizer comparing Society Hill before and after urban renewal, and an analytical question that asks them to draw their own conclusions.

Richard Allen: Apostle of Freedom, 7:05

Richard Allen-first pastor of Mother Bethel Church, founder of the AME Church, and much more-was a key leader in developing the strength of Philadelphia's free black community in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, the community into which the Catto family assimilated in the 1850s.

The Daring Women of Philadelphia

Lucretia Mott: Philadelphia's Revolutionary, 6:30

This webisode documents the life and work of Lucretia Mott, a Quaker, an abolitionist, a feminist, and a woman well ahead of her time.

Notes From a Colored Girl: The Civil War Pocket Diaries of Emilee Frances Davis, 4:41

Historian Kay Whitehead explains the significance of a unique primary source: the daily writings of a young, black woman living in Philadelphia during the Civil War era.

Cecil's People:

The Freedom Fighters

In 1965, youth members of the Philadelphia branch of the NAACP rallied under the leadership of lawyer and civil rights leader Cecil B. Moore to desegregate Girard College, a school reserved for fatherless white boys, even though the neighborhood surrounding the school became one of Philadelphia's most vital African American districts. Fifty years after the protests that ultimately met their objective, four Cecil B. Moore Philadelphia Freedom Fighters, "Cecil's People," recount their struggle in story and song.

Part I, "The Will and the Wall," introduces four of the Freedom Fighters, and traces their roots to the north Philadelphia neighborhood around the walls of Girard College. (4:28)

Part II, "Seven Months and Seventeen Days," introduces Philadelphia NAACP President Cecil B. Moore, and chronicles the massive picket effort waged by Moore's NAACP branch in the streets and around the walls of Girard College. (10:41)

Part III, "Over the Wall," recreates the momentous visit by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Girard College in the summer of 1965 and explores the differences and similarities of the northern and southern civil rights movements as they converged in Philadelphia. (8:00)

A "webquest" designed to help students delve more deeply into the Girard College story by guiding them through the primary-source rich "Civil Rights in a Northern City" website (a project of Temple University Special Collections Libraries) is available for use either before or after viewing the films.