Remembering a Forgotten Hero

The first mural to honor Octavius Catto.

Remembering a Forgotten Hero by Keir Johnston and Willis Nomo Humphrey. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Remembering a Forgotten Hero by Keir Johnston and Willis Nomo Humphrey. Photo by Steve Weinik.

About the Project 

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. In 2018, artists Willis Humphrey and Keir Johnston  collaborated on a mural at the Universal Charter School in South Philadelphia. The artwork celebrates early civil rights activist Octavius V. Catto in the neighborhood where he lived. An educator, athlete, and activist, Catto was assassinated on South Street in 1871 after pushing for voting rights for black citizens. Remembering a Forgotten Hero is the first mural to honor Catto.

During the production of the mural, Humphrey and Johnston engaged with local students and members of the Restorative Justice Guild in learning about Catto’s life and struggles, designing a mural that elevates and reflects on the complexity of our history.

Funders 

Hummingbird Foundation
City of Philadelphia

Partners 

Universal Charter School
School District of Philadelphia
City of Philadelphia