This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Philadelphia students and teachers combined art and history on Monday to honor one of the city’s forgotten heroes.
About 200 students gathered, 100 at a time, in the City Hall courtyard to paint roughly half of a 6,000-square-foot mural dedicated to Octavius Catto, who made history in civil rights activism and sports in 19th-century Philadelphia. The finished mural will cover the east facade of the Universal Institute Charter building near 15th and Catharine Streets in South Philadelphia.
The painting project was part of an event marking the end of the School District’s professional development initiative that helped middle and high school teachers incorporate Catto’s life into their lesson plans. Throughout the school year, the District offered five workshops covering various aspects of Catto’s legacy.
The goal is to teach students about the history of black and brown people, as well as to inspire activism, said Shaquita Smith, the district’s social studies curriculum specialist.