A portrait of Octavius Catto, an African American activist, educator, and political organizer, ca.1871.
In addition to his work as a political organizer and educator, Catto worked with Frederick Douglass as a recruiter for black regiments during the Civil War. Catto was a supporter of the Republican Party and an advocate for the Fifteenth Amendment. Although Pennsylvania was a free state prior to the Civil War, African American men’s right to vote had been rescinded by the state legislature in 1838. For the city’s first election following the Fifteenth Amendment, Catto led a campaign encouraging Philadelphia’s African American community to vote. On election day, Octavius Catto was shot and killed by Frank Kelly, a Democratic Party agent.