Tag: Cheyney University

Civil Rights and War Hero Octavius Catto to Become Philadelphia’s 1st African American Honored With a Public Statue

This model of the Octavius V. Catto Memorial shows the statue, pillars and ballot box elements that will make up the $1.75 million project. (photo via phillyvoice.com)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to blavity.comOctavius Valentine Catto will be honored with a statue outside of Philadelphia’s city hall this September. Catto’s statue will be the first monument built to honor an African American erected on public land in the City of Brotherly Love. Although Catto’s memorial has been in the works for years, in the wake of the push to take so many Confederate statues down across the nation, the timing for this statue’s unveiling could not be better.

In Charleston, South Carolina on February 22, 1839, Catto was born a free black man. Catto excelled at his studies, attending a school for black children in Philadelphia, the Institute for Colored Youth, an institution he later led.

According to phillyvoice.com, in his early 20s, Catto was already an active leader in the African American community. He was a member of the 4th Ward Black Political Club, the Union League Association, the Library Company and the Franklin Institute. He demanded that African Americans fight in the Civil War and helped get their regiments inducted into the war. In 1863, at the height of the Civil War, he joined the army and enlisted as a volunteer in defense of the state of Pennsylvania.

Octavius Catto (photo via phillyvoice.com)

Catto was also a major in the Pennsylvania National Guard and played baseball as captain and second baseman for the Pythians, an African American baseball team. He was inducted into the Negro League Baseball Museum’s Hall of Fame.

Beyond being an educator, ball player and a war hero, Philadelphia is celebrating Catto for his local civil rights activism, which went into full gear after he was kicked off of a segregated horse-drawn trolley. He staged a sit-in on the streetcars, refusing to move off of the car. The driver drove the car off of its track and unhitched its horses, unsure how else to get rid of Catto. Catto remained aboard; the other passengers and the driver left him there. Catto also defended several black women who were forcibly ejected from the city’s streetcars, and used a fine levied against his fiancée to drum up publicity for his cause. Finally, in 1867, due in large part to Catto’s pressure, the city desegregated its streetcars.

“In Philadelphia, at that time, you could be wearing a Civil War uniform and not have been able to get on that trolley car,” said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, who has been hoping to bring a statue of Catto to the city since at least 2003, after he learned the story of Catto’s life. “[Knowing this] you realize, this struggle isn’t just a 1960s struggle. It’s a struggle from the beginning of the country.” Continue reading “Civil Rights and War Hero Octavius Catto to Become Philadelphia’s 1st African American Honored With a Public Statue”

HBCU Young Alumni Seek to Break Stereotypes as ‘Young, Gifted and Black’ Photo Goes Viral

Nyerere Davidson never imagined that a gathering with friends from around the country would produce an iconic photo representing the future of historically black colleges and universities, but the 2008 Florida A&M University graduate couldn’t be happier about it.

“I just thought it would be a nice illustration to counteract the stereotypes about young black people,” says Davidson, a Milwaukee native and recent transplant to Washington D.C. who organized the shoot as a commemorative moment for his birthday celebration last month in the District.

“This is a range of different people from different parts of the country, different shades, different looks and different styles representing what black excellence looks like. And all of us are from HBCUs.”

Davidson is a marketing executive with the YMCA’s national headquarters, and promotes the organization’s Healthy Living/Healthy Communities initiative. A former volunteer with the YMCA’s community-based Black Achievers program in Milwaukee, he says that imagery is a powerful part of connecting with black youth and showing real possibilities in education and professional life.

“With everything going on at Mizzou, and in cities throughout the country, I think this shows young black people in a totally different way,” he said. “We’re all professionals – doctors, fashion designers, corporate executives – but we’re young and we embrace our responsibility to our communities and what our image means to the outside world.”

“Today we live in a world where there is so much attention devoted to the distorted portrayals of African Americans specifically black males,” says Jacob Waites, a 2010 Cheyney University graduate who was among the attendees featured in the photo. “A society where one image can have a huge impact on perception. This is why it’s imperative that images such as the one from Nye’s 30th birthday brunch is so essential. It’s time to dispel the exaggerated views of African Americans and give the world a real-world experience.”

Friends with alumni ties to FAMU, Claflin, Howard, Morgan State, Alcorn State, Tennessee State, Morehouse and Cheyney are represented in the image.  Many say they are proud of their HBCU experience and aware of the role that scenes like this play in promoting similar experiences for future HBCU students.

“Being a part of this photo was iconic for me– when we came together, W.E.B. Dubois ‘Talented Tenth’ essay came to mind,” says Kimberly Guy, a 2002 Tennessee State alumna.  “He asserted, ‘The Talented Tenth of African Americans must be made leaders of thought and missionaries of culture among their people….Negro Colleges must train men [and women] for it.'”

“In an era of social media with its sometimes derogatory and stereotypical portrayals of African Americans, I feel this photo captures the essence of the Talented Tenth. As a proud HBCU alum, this pic represents collectively all professional black in society that are proudly commited to carrying on the legacy established by our forebears while exceeding society expectations for our race. We are leaders, we are pillars of the community, and we are ‘regular folk’. But most importantly we are young, gifted, and Black.”

article via hbcudigest.com

 

FEATURE: How HBCU Xavier University Sends More Black Students to Medical School Than Any Other U.S. College

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Students at Xavier University of Louisiana in a pre-med class. (BRIAN FINKE FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Norman Francis was just a few years into his tenure as president of Xavier University of Louisiana, a small Catholic institution in New Orleans, when a report that came across his desk alarmed him. It was an accounting of the nation’s medical students, and it found that the already tiny number of black students attending medical school was dropping.

It was the 1970s, at the tail end of the civil rights movement. Francis, a black man in his early 40s, had spent most of his life under the suffocating apartheid of the Jim Crow South. But after decades of hard-fought battles and the passage of three major civil rights laws, doors were supposed to be opening, not closing. Francis, the son of a hotel bellhop, had stepped through one of those doors himself when he became the first black student to be admitted to Loyola University’s law school in 1952.

Francis believed he was in a unique position to address the dearth of black doctors. Xavier served a nearly all-black student body of just over 1,300. At the time, most of Xavier’s science department was housed in an old surplus Army building donated to the college by the military after World War II. It had no air-conditioning, and the heater was so loud in the winter that instructors had to switch it off to be heard. But the science program had always been strong, if underfunded, and began producing its first medical-­school students not long after the university was founded in 1925.

Today, Xavier’s campus is mostly wedged between a canal and the Pontchartrain Expressway in Gert Town, a neighborhood in the western part of New Orleans. It has some 3,000 students and consistently produces more black students who apply to and then graduate from medical school than any other institution in the country. More than big state schools like Michigan or Florida. More than elite Ivies like Harvard and Yale. Xavier is also first in the nation in graduating black students with bachelor’s degrees in biology and physics. It is among the top four institutions graduating black pharmacists. It is third in the nation in black graduates who go on to earn doctorates in science and engineering.

Xavier has accomplished this without expansive, high-tech facilities — its entire science program is housed in a single complex. It has accomplished this while charging tuition that, at $19,800 a year, is considerably less than that of many private colleges and flagship public universities. It has accomplished this without filling its classrooms with the nation’s elite black students. Most of Xavier’s students are the first in their families to attend college, and more than half come from lower-­income homes.

‘‘The question always comes: ‘Well, how did this happen, and why are we No.1?’ ’’ said Francis, who recently retired from Xavier after 47 years as president. We were sitting in the dining room of his stately home in the Lake Terrace neighborhood on a sweltering day in August as he thought about the answer. ‘‘We decided we could do something about it. And what we did, what our faculty did, was just plain common sense.’’

Xavier University exists within a constellation of more than 100 schools federally designated as historically black colleges and universities. To achieve this designation, colleges must have opened before 1964 — the year Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, which banned racial discrimination in all public facilities and institutions — and must have been founded with the express purpose of educating black Americans, though students of any race can, and do, attend them. Continue reading “FEATURE: How HBCU Xavier University Sends More Black Students to Medical School Than Any Other U.S. College”