Baseball and Race in Post-bellum Pennsylvania

In the years after the Civil War many people, like Octavius Catto, worked tirelessly to break down racial barriers and ensure that blacks received the social and political rights they deserved. In many places, including Philadelphia, baseball provided a platform on which to do this. Through their talent, intelligence, diligence, and drive both on and off the field, men like Octavius Catto and the players in Pythian's Base Ball Club worked to build strong ties as well as local and national support systems for the black community of Philadelphia.


19th century
African American
Recreation and Sport

Big Ideas

Pennsylvania History
Perspective on Events

Essential Questions

How can the story of another Pennsylvanian, past or present, influence your life?
How has social disagreement and collaboration been beneficial to Pennsylvania society?


  • Historical causation involves motives, reasons, and consequences that result in events and actions. Some consequences may be impacted by forces of the irrational or the accidental.
  • Conflict and cooperation among social groups, organizations, and nation-states are critical to comprehending society in Pennsylvania. Domestic instability, ethnic and racial relations, labor relation, immigration, and wars and revolutions are examples of social disagreement and collaboration.
  • Long-term continuities and discontinuities in the structures of Pennsylvania society provide vital contributions to contemporary issues. Belief systems and religion, commerce and industry, innovations, settlement patterns, social organization, transportation and trade, and equality are examples continuity and change.


  • Contrast multiple perspectives of individuals and groups in interpreting other times, cultures, and place.
  • Apply the theme of continuity and change in Pennsylvania history and relate the benefits and drawbacks of your example.
  • Summarize how conflict and compromise in Pennsylvania history impact contemporary society.

Background Material for Teacher

"Octavius Catto and the Phythians of Philadelphia," by Jerrold Casway in Pennsylvania Legacies

End of Unit Assessment

Students could participate in a role playing activity in which they portray Catto, Still, and White. The class could also play a game of “baseball” in which the pitcher (the teacher) asks questions rated single, double, triple, and home run testing the students’ knowledge of facts regarding the Civil War, racial relations in Pennsylvania, and the role baseball played in facilitating social and political change.  Alternatively, one could assess the letters the students write at the end of the lesson.