New Mural Arts Project Honors the Legacy of Octavius Catto

Fittingly, a new mural depicting the historic black educator will go up on the side of a school.

Mock-up of Mural Arts’ forthcoming Octavius Catto mural.

On what would have been the 179th birthday of activist Octavius V. Catto, Mural Arts Philadelphia on Thursday announced its plans to feature the historic African-American educator on an upcoming mural in the neighborhood where he lived and died.

Fittingly, Mural Arts’s latest piece will go up on the side of a school building at 1427 Catharine Street (Universal Institute Charter School) in Graduate Hospital. Before he was assassinated on South Street at age 32, Catto was considered a true Renaissance man. He was an orator who shared stages with the likes of Frederick Douglass, principal of Philadelphia’s finest school for black students – his alma mater – and was a top-notch second baseman on the city’s best black baseball team.

Catto was killed in a racially motivated attack in front of a polling station on Election Day in 1871. At the time he was pushing for voting rights and increased educational opportunities for African-American citizens, among other causes such as desegregated trollies.

“The history of Philadelphia is written all over the city, in sculptures and street names and, of course, murals – but not all history is in the public eye, even when it should be,” Mural Arts executive director Jane Golden said in a release. “We love highlighting individuals and communities whose stories deserve to be more widely known.”

Catto’s legacy was not widely discussed in Philadelphia until recently. A bronze statue honoring “the hero of America’s first civil rights movement” was placed in front of City Hall in September 2017. The new mural, titled Remembering a Forgotton Hero, also depicts other civil rights leaders in addition to Catto. A rendering of the design can be seen below.

Photo courtesy of Mural Arts Philadelphia.

Mural Arts plans to hold a public paint day in late April for anyone who wishes to help in creating the 6,000-square-foot piece. The mural will be dedicated this fall. For more details visit