By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The years long journey to erect a memorial for 19th century Philadelphia freedom fighter Octavius Catto is one step closer to the finish line.
Thanks to funding from the city, the Abraham Lincoln Foundation of the Union League and other donors, the Octavius V. Catto Memorial Fund will soon announce a sculptor for a memorial paying homage to the civil rights pioneer.
“We have no one single statuary on public property of a single African American historical figure in the city,” says Philadelphia City Councilman Jim Kenney, noting that there are only group memorials to African Americans in the city. He says the Catto memorial will sit on the southwest apron of Philadelphia City Hall to ensure the city never forgets the many contributions of Catto.
“This man was the Dr. King and the Jackie Robinson of his day,” says Kenney, “and I never heard his name time I was 40-some years old. We have to fix that.”
Catto — an athlete, educator and freedom fighter — was just 32 years old when he was killed on election day in 1871 while fighting for the voting rights of African Americans.
“This statute pays homage to a Black man of the 19th century who made a difference, not only in this city, but nationally,” says Roz McPherson, spokesperson for the OVC Memorial Project.
“There will be a monument so that we can see his likeness, but there will be other interpretive things that will be depicted in this memorial,” she says.
McPherson says the fund has completed phase one of fundraising and is in the process of selected a sculptor for the project, which they will announce in April. The monument is expected to be completed in Fall of 2015.