Crispus Attucks

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Revolutionary War

Crispus Attucks

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Crispus Attucks
Revolutionary War
c. 1732 - March 5, 1770


In his seminal book, Why We Can’t Wait, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote about the inspired life of Crispus Attucks, saying, “He is one of the most important figures in African-American history, not for what he did for his own race but for what he did for all oppressed people everywhere. He is a reminder that the African-American heritage is not only African but American and it is a heritage that begins with the beginning of America.” Attucks was one of the Boston Patriots to die during the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770. Not much is known about Attucks, but most historians agree that he was of mixed blood of African and Native American descent. It appears that Attucks was engaged in the maritime industries of New England and had some experience as a sailor. As tension between Great Britain and her American colonies erupted in 1765 with Parliament’s passing of the Stamp Act, Great Britain felt compelled to send British troops to occupy Boston, the hotbed of colonial resistance. In this volatile atmosphere Bostonians and British soldiers often competed for menial work. The events of March 5th may have precipitated the violence. The lone sentry of the Massachusetts State House, was attacked by a vociferous mob who threw stones, snowballs, chunks of ice and wood at the sentinel. Fearing for his life he called for support and fellow soldiers from the nearby garrison came to his assistance. The crowd only grew and amidst the confusion the British attempting to defend themselves fired into the crowd. Five men fell dead, the first among them was Attucks. A large funeral was held in Boston and the five victims of the “Boston Massacre” were buried together in a common grave in Boston’s Old Granary Burying Ground.

In the 19th century, Attucks became a symbol of the Abolitionist Movement and his image and story were seen and told to demonstrate his patriotic virtues. In the 20th century Attucks’ was celebrated in song, by musician Stevie Wonder during the American Revolution Bicentennial and a commemorative postage stamp in his honor was also issued at that time.