The National Archives at Philadelphia

NRB Press Release
June, 2005

NRB Regional Administrator Featured Guest Commenter in Philadelphia Exhibit

The Real Thing and Why it Matters, a new exhibit opening at the Atwater Kent Museum of Philadelphia on May 6th, showcases significant items from the museum's collections with commentary from a distinguished group of local historians, elected official, community leaders and citizens. The commentary discusses the meaning of the objects and how that meaning has shaped the city of Philadelphia's historical memory. V. Chapman-Smith, as NRB regional administrator, was asked to discuss the significance of a 1906 Black Elk Lodge banner inscribed with Octavius V. Catto's name. A contemporary of Frederick Douglass, Octavius Catto was a leading 19th Century black civil rights activist, Civil War veteran and educator, whose life, in part, is documented in the records of the National Archives. Catto was assassinated in 1871, while trying to vote in the first election in Pennsylvania under the 15th Amendment. Catto's funeral was the largest public funeral held in Philadelphia to this day, attended by national, state and local officials. V's photo and commentary will remain on display with the banner until January 2, 2006, when the exhibit closes. "Catto is in many respects a forgotten hero in the black struggle for civil rights. By participating in this project, our regional program has been able to use knowledge in the National Archives to help another institution better interpret the meaning of its holdings and give the community here a chance to rediscover its heritage," says V. Chapman-Smith.

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