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Octavius Catto

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.


Cheyney University Founded in 1837 started as a school for Colored Youth

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.

Benjamin Banneker Early African American Scientist and Inventor

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.

African people arrive in America in the late summer of 1619

In 1619 we have the first recorded documentation of African captives arriving in Jamestown Virginia. They arrived on a Dutch ship and they numbered about 20 people. The records are unclear if they were considered slaves or indentured servants.  There are earlier accounts of Blacks in America as explorers and Spanish conquistadors.  One such example is Esteban de Dorantes, or Esteban the Moor. Esteban was a native African who was enslaved as a Youth by the Portuguese and then sold to the Spanish.  In 1527 he was part of an expedition to establish a colony in Florida.



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Outward Bound Supporters Rappel 29 Stories for a Great Cause 

Building Adventure Fundraiser Raises Money to Fund Education Programs for more than 60 Philadelphia Public and Charter Schools

Where:  Brandywine Realty Trust’s Commerce Square  (2001 Market Street, Phila. Pa. 19103)

When:  October 20th, 2017

Time:  8:00am – 5:00pm

Philadelphia, PA. – For  the sixth year, supporters will raise money for Outward Bound’s annual fundraising event- Building Adventure. This year the event takes place in Center City at one of the most iconic skyscrapers in Philadelphia, Brandywine Realty Trust’s Commerce Square. Participants will rappel 29 stories down to literally “go over the edge” for Outward Bound, reflecting their mission to change lives through challenge and discovery.

All are invited to attend the event and cheer on the sponsors and supporters who will challenge themselves AND help Outward Bound meet the Challenge of educating Philadelphia’s future leaders.

For more information log on to OR

About Philadelphia Outward Bound School

Philadelphia Outward Bound School (POBS) is a non-profit educational organization with a mission to change lives through challenge and discovery. POBS single day (insight) and multi-day expedition courses and programs engage students from across the region in challenging activities that develop and enhance leadership and personal life skills.  Outward Bound works with students – both youth and adult – in small groups led by skilled and trained instructors in unfamiliar and often remote natural settings. Outward Bound’s world renowned experiential education programs allow students to discover personal character and leadership skills and develop a commitment to service to others. Outward Bound’s vision is to inspire a new generation of leaders who have a strong understanding of themselves and their importance to their community.