"Crispus Attucks-First Patriot Killed in Boston Massacre, March 6, 1770" by Herschel Levit
Crispus Attucks being mortally wounded in the Boston Massacre (1770). This attack has been described as signaling the start of the American Revolution.
Crispus Attucks (c.1723–March 5, 1770) was a Bostonian laborer killed at the Boston Massacre. Very little is known for certain about his life. He is thought to have been a runaway slave with mixed African and Native American ancestry. An October 2, 1750 advertisement placed in the Boston Gazette may refer to him: "ran away from his Master William Brown from Framingham, on the 30th of Sept. last, a Mollato Fellow, about 27 years of age, named Crispas, 6 Feet two inches high, short curl'd Hair, his knees near together than common: had on a light colour'd Bearskin Coat." The owner offered a reward of £10 for his return.
Attucks had become a sailor and laborer. He is remembered for being part of a crowd of 30 or more workers protesting against the presence of [Kingdom of Great Britain ] troops in Boston. Boston had been under military occupation since 1768. Colonial sailors resented the presence of the British because of the danger of press gangs. Other workers in Boston were disturbed because British soldiers worked part-time jobs at low wages in order to supplement their army pay, which potentially took away jobs and drove down wages for the colonial workers. Revolutionaries such as Samuel Adams actively encouraged these protest against the soldiers.
Tensions had been rising over the weekend when the crowd appeared before the British barracks, where some teenage boys were involved in an incident with the soldiers. Attucks has been often depicted as one of the leaders of the crowd, waving a club and urging an attack on the outnumbered troops. Eventually, despite attempts by their officer to prevent it, the eight soldiers of the 29th Regiment of Foot fired, killing five members of the crowd: Attucks and three white men.
Samuel Adams's cousin, John Adams, successfully defended the British soldiers against a charge of murder, calling the crowd "a motley rabble of saucy boys, negroes and molattoes, Irish teagues and outlandish jack tarrs."
Samuel Adams, on the other hand, gave the event the name of the Boston Massacre and assured that it would not be forgotten. The five who were killed were buried as heroes in the Granary Burying Ground, despite laws against burying blacks with whites.
Some controversy remains over whether Attucks was a revolutionary leader or simply a rabble rouser, but it is possible that for that time, he was both. The Boston Massacre was an important event that underscored the commitment of ordinary Americans to the ideas of the coming revolution.
Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to Crispus Attucks in the introduction of Why We Can't Wait as a specific example of a man whose contribution to history has been overlooked by standard histories.
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