Review by Choice Review
Many know the work of Frederick Douglass, the foremost African American activist for black civil rights in the 19th century. But few are aware of other Civil War-era black activists, such as Octavius Catto of Philadelphia. Catto was a part of the city's black intelligentsia and a vigorous proponent of equal rights. He taught at the Institute for Colored Youth, guiding former slaves. He worked with local leaders to end racial discrimination, including discrimination on the city's streetcars. He encouraged black men to vote at a time when Philadelphia whites often tried to scare blacks away from exercising their political rights. Catto became a martyr to his cause when, at age 32, he was gunned down in Philadelphia's 1871 election-day riot. Biddle and Dubin, experienced journalists with The Philadelphia Inquirer, have done a commendable job of digging into the elusive records of Catto's life. They present a clear and compelling portrait of this significant early civil rights activist; they also present a thoughtful assessment of how Catto's efforts relate to the modern black civil rights movement. Students, scholars, and the general public will benefit from this study. Summing Up: Recommended. University and public libraries. R. Detweiler California Polytechnic State University--San Luis Obispo
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Library Journal Review
Killed in an 1871 Philadelphia Election Day riot to keep blacks from voting, Octavius Valentine Catto (1839-71) was a gifted schoolteacher, spellbinding classical orator, and first-rate second baseman. Most important, he was a civil rights activist. With fellow blacks who called themselves a "band of brothers," Catto pushed to desegregate streetcars, secure voting rights, and demand rigor in schools in Pennsylvania and its self-styled City of Brotherly Love during the turbulent Civil War era. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Biddle and his retired Philadelphia Inquirer colleague Dubin here recount Catto's life. In brightly written, accessible, detail-packed prose, they follow Catto from birth in Charleston, SC, through his family's move north, his schooling, and his camaraderie with the likes of black leaders such as Frederick Douglass. The captivating story illustrates the too often neglected street battles for black rights in northern cities long before the hot summers of the 1960s. VERDICT Biddle and Dubin have produced an entrancing portrait of a leading Renaissance man for equal rights; their book demands attention from students of the theme, time, and place. Nothing matches it at the moment as a prequel to Thomas J. Sugrue's much-noted Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North.-Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.