The Disney/Marvel superhero movie The Black Panther is based on an African King named T’Challa who is the leader of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. Along with possessing enhanced abilities achieved through ancient Wakandan rituals, T’Challa also relies on his proficiency in science, rigorous physical training, hand-to-hand combat skills, and access to wealth and advanced technology to combat his enemies. The character has been around as a, superhero, in the comics since 1966, he’s a fantasy but he’s a fantasy that’s about to play an important role in black American culture. The movie the Black Panther is about to become a world-wide hit. Between now and Monday the movie is expected to bring in more than $250 million. The Black Panther movie is about to prove that movies centered on black culture can become global blockbusters.
Octavius Valentine Catto (February 22, 1839 – October 10, 1871) was a black educator, intellectual, and civil rights leader in Philadelphia. He became principal of male students at the Institute for Colored Youth, where he had also been educated. The Institute for Colored Youth would one day become Cheyney University. Born free in Charleston, South Carolina in a prominent family, he moved north as a boy with his family. He became educated and served as a teacher, becoming active in civil rights. As a man, he served in the Civil War as a major in the Pennsylvania National Guard in one of the all colored companies.
Catto stood up for his civil rights and demonstrated the value of African American to society. He was killed in election day violence in Philadelphia, where opposing political parties attacked black men to prevent their voting against their candidate.
On October 10, 1871, on his way to vote, Octavius Catto was shot and killed. No one was convicted for the murder. Catto was given a military funeral and laid to rest at Lebanon Cemetery.
To honor Octavius Catto, Mayor Jim Kenney announced on June 10, 2016, that a new sculpture would stand outside of Philadelphia City Hall. The statue “A Quest for Parity” by artist Branly Cadet, was installed at City Hall on September 24, 2017, and dedicated on September 26, 2017. It is the first public monument in Philadelphia to honor a specific African American.
The founding of Cheyney University was made possible by Richard Humphreys, a Quaker philanthropist who bequeathed $10,000, one tenth of his estate, to design and establish a school to educate the descendants of the African race. Born on Tortola, an island in the West Indies, Richard Humphreys came to Philadelphia in 1764. Having witnessed the struggles of African Americans competing unsuccessfully for jobs due to the influx of immigrants, he became interested in their plight. In 1829, after race riots occurred in Philadelphia, Humphreys wrote his will and charged thirteen fellow Quakers to design an institution: “…to instruct the descendants of the African race in school learning, in the various branches of the mechanic arts, trades and agriculture, in order to prepare and fit and qualify them to act as teachers….”
From its initial founding until 1852, the African Institute, as it was known, was located on a 136 acre farm seven miles from Philadelphia on Old York Road. In 1849, the farm school closed for re-evaluation and the farm was sold. On October 22, 1849, the board authorized the re-opening of the school, and on November 5, 1849, an evening school opened on Barclay Street in Philadelphia where it continued to operate through the spring of 1851 until suitable quarters could be found to resume a day school program. Toward the end of July, 1851, the board found a better location for the school on two contiguous lots on the south side of Lombard Street (716-18). The purchase price was $3,244.
In 1902 the School moved to its current location and was still know as the Institute for colored youth. . In November of 1902, a committee of the Board of Managers recommended the purchase of a farm owned by Quaker farmer George Cheyney at Cheyney Station, Pennsylvania about twenty-five miles west of Philadelphia. The move to the expansive country location was deemed necessary in order for the Institute to increase academic offerings and, therefore, attract more students. In 1914 the name was changed to Cheyney Institute for Teachers.
Richard Allen was a Philadelphian minister, educator, and writer. He became one of America’s most influential early black leaders. In 1794 he founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first independent black church in the United States. He opened his first AME church in 1794 in Philadelphia, Pa. Allen worked to improve the social status of the black community in Philadelphia. Later in 1787 Allen and Absalom Jones founded the Free African Society in Philadelphia. The Free African Society advocated and worked for the abolition of slavery and provided medical assistance for the poor.
Benjamin Banneker was a mostly self-taught astronomer, inventor, mathematician, and writer of almanacs. He was born to free parents in Maryland in 1731. He owned a farm near Baltimore and was later called into service to assist in surveying land for the construction of Washington, DC, which would become that nation’s capital. Banneker is also known form have written correspondence with Thomas Jefferson before he became president. In his letters Banneker politely challenged him to do what he could to ensure racial equality.
William Tucker is the first recorded birth of an African American in the early British colonies which will later become America. Tucker was born in Jamestown, Virginia in 1624. William was the son of “Anthony and Isabell” two African indentured servants who were among the first group brought here in 1619.