The untold story of Octavius Catto and the first civil rights movement in America

Join Us on March 31, 2011 at 7:00 pm at Addleston Library, Room 227 for this exciting lecture and book signing.

He shared stages with Frederick Douglass and recruited black men for Lincoln’s armies. He played for a pioneering black baseball team, taught at a renowned Philadelphia black school, and fought for equality in the state house and the streets. His name was Octavius Catto, and he and his allies—men and women, black and white—waged their battles for civil rights a century before Birmingham and Selma.

Like the Freedom Riders of the modern civil rights movement, they braved the wrath of white policemen, politicians, mobs and murderers. Catto’s life was cut short at the moment when, as W.E.B. Du Bois wrote, African Americans “were first tasting freedom.”

In Tasting Freedom: Octavius Catto and the Battle for Equality in Civil War America (Publication Date: September 22, 2010), Pulitzer Prize winner Daniel R. Biddle and Murray Dubin chronicle the life and times of this charismatic leader in a movement of preachers, teachers, Underground Railroad agents and former slaves. Their white supporters ranged from pacifist Lucretia Mott to murderous John Brown.

Catto’s “band of brothers,” as they called themselves, anticipated Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, and Martin Luther King Jr. by nearly a century. They sat down in whites-only streetcars, challenged baseball’s color line and marched through a rain of eggs, epithets, brickbats and bullets to proclaim their right to vote. The story of their struggle to change America will change readers’ understanding of America’s racial history.

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.

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About Lisa Randle

Lisa is the Education Outreach Coordinator for Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture and the Site Coordinator for the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World Program at the College of Charleston. Lisa is currently working on a PhD in historic archaeology at the University of South Carolina.

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