PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Mural Arts Philadelphia unveiled a new mural on Thursday in South Philadelphia honoring 19th century civil rights leader Octavius V. Catto on what would have been his 179th birthday.
The five-story mural of Octavius V. Catto will be placed on the wall of the Universal Institute Charter School near 15th and Catherine Streets, just blocks from where he lived and was assassinated at just 32 years old.
“He was an athlete and educator and an activist,” says Willis Nomo Humphrey, who created the mural’s design with Keir Johnson.
The artists consulted historians when creating the mural, which features an image of Catto alongside words like “patriot” and pictures symbolizing the post-Civil War civil rights movement.
“The desegregation of the trolleys, the burning of Pennsylvania Hall, a baseball game during the 1860s,” says Johnston.
Mural Arts had been working to erect this mural for years, but development and community sentiment regarding activism made many sites unsuitable.
Executive director Jane Golden says momentum building, along with the Catto Statute near City Hall and a citywide push toward celebrating the unsung hero, helped take the project off of the shelf.
Given Catto’s youth at the time of his most inspiring work, Golden says she’s hoping Catto’s image inspires the students at Universal “to make their mark on the city in big, bold, beautiful, wonderful ways.”
The mural is expected to be completed this summer.