Welcoming Jasmine R. Smith to the Library Company!
Jasmine R. Smith, African American History Subject Specialist and Reference Librarian
On October 2, Jasmine R. Smith joined the staff as the African American History Subject Specialist and Reference Librarian. Jasmine is a graduate of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, with a BA in History. She also has an MA in Library and Information Science from Kent State University, with a concentration in Museum Studies. In the short time she’s been on board, Jasmine has examined material on Octavius V. Catto (1839-1871). The 19th-century civil rights activist has been in the news since the unveiling of the public statue of him on September 26. In particular, Jasmine has been reading Daniel Biddle and Murray Dubin’s biography of Catto, Tasting Freedom: Octavius Catto at the Battle for Equality in Civil War America (2010), noting that both Biddle and Dubin conducted some of their research at the Library Company. Jasmine summarizes Catto’s efforts to combat racial injustice on Philadelphia streetcars thus:
After a battle that lasted about ten years, Octavius Catto and others in the African American community achieved streetcar equality in the Philadelphia region. They started out by purchasing space in white-owned newspapers to publicize their concerns and persuade white business owners and civic leaders to sign their petitions to the streetcar companies. Although these efforts were largely ignored, they kept on fighting. Catto then focused on black Civil War veterans. He didn’t understand how it was possible for black men to have fought for this country and then not be allowed space on any streetcar. In 1867, after many failed attempts, Octavius Catto was finally able to convince legislators to pass a car bill which allowed black Philadelphia residents to have access to all streetcars.