American seaman and stevedore Crispus Attucks is thought to have been the first victim of the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770. As the first American to give his own life in the American Revolution, he has been elevated to the status of a folk hero. He is regarded as a representation of American nationalism and became known as an anti-slavery movement icon in the middle of the 19th century. Although specifics of his upbringing and life are unknown, it is assumed that he was the son of a Natick Native American and an African-born slave. In the 18th century, when slavery was prevalent in America and Africans were viewed as the property of white men, he was likely an escaped slave who went on to rebuild his life as a prosperous free man. He led a group of people in a demonstration on March 5, 1770, against a British soldier who had injured a young barber’s apprentice. As the conflict heated up, a squad of British soldiers fired on Attucks and his men, killing a few and wounding many more. The first man to pass away was Attucks. In the early years of the American Revolution, this incident turned out to be a significant catalyst. Following his passing, he was praised by the “abolitionist movement’s” supporters and was widely acknowledged as an African-American man who had made a significant contribution to American history.
Background of Crispus Attucks
The son of Prince Yonger, an African-born slave, and Nancy Peterattucks, a Natick Native American, Crispus Attucks is thought to have been born in Framingham, Massachusetts, around the year 1723. He may have been a distant relative of John Attack, who was hanged during King Philip’s War.
While historians disagree on whether he was a free man or an escaped slave and lack sufficient evidence to support either claim, most of them concur that he was of African ancestry. It is assumed that the Bostonians thought of him as being of mixed ethnicity because the eyewitnesses to the Boston Massacre did not refer to him as “Negro” or “Black.”
In advance of the Boston Massacre
A slave owner named William Brown declared in 1750 that he would give a reward of ten pounds to anyone who could locate his runaway slave, Crispus, who he had described in an advertisement. The historians’ ability to determine his position during the Boston Massacre is made more challenging by this piece of information. Many claims that he was the fugitive black slave in question, but others think that he was already a free man at that point.
He was a sailor and a dock worker, according to those who think he was a free man during the Boston Massacre. He worked as a stevedore along the Atlantic coast for a significant portion of his life.
Others think he lived under the guise of “Michael Johnson” and had just returned from the Bahamas in the first few months of 1770. At the time of the Boston incident, he was set to depart for another trip to North Carolina.
It happened in Boston.
British soldiers arrived in Boston in 1768 to quell the uprising among the colonists that had broken out following the passage of the “Stamp Act” and the “Townshend Acts.” However, the troops’ presence made the situation worse and the tension increased.
The regrettable Boston Massacre occurred on March 5, 1770. A boy made the initial claim that a sentry had failed to pay the barber’s bill. Just for requesting the payment, the boy received a harsh reprimand. Where the confrontation was occurring, the colonists and the British soldiers of the 29th Regiment of Foot gathered, and tensions began to rise.
Attucks was among the colonists who congregated there. It’s assumed that they carried some wooden objects. Some sources claim that the mob, led by Attucks, attacked the troops with clubs before they opened fire. Another witness, however, claimed that Attucks was merely leaning on a wooden pole when the soldiers opened fire.
With two shots to the chest, Attucks was one of the five colonists that day to pass away. He is thought to have been the first of the five victims to pass away that day. Additionally, the shooting left six additional colonists with serious injuries.
Attucks’ body underwent an autopsy by the county coroners, Robert Pierpoint and Thomas Crafts Jr., and was then transported to Faneuil Hall, where it was kept for an additional three days.
Reactions after the massacre
John Adams successfully defended the majority of the British soldiers following the Boston massacre, much to the dismay of the colonists. Manslaughter charges were brought against just two of the soldiers. With branding on their thumbs, they were spared the death penalty after pleading for the “benefit of clergy.”
At the Granary Burying Ground, where notable figures like Samuel Adams and John Hancock were also interred, the five victims—including Attucks—were given brave burials.
Numerous ceremonies were held over the course of the following 200 years to honor him, including the “Crispus Attucks Day” that the abolitionists of the Boston area established.
Attucks and Samuel Gray both died in the same accident in 1886, and the spot where they both fell was marked with circles and a wheel-like structure.
In 1998, the U.S. Treasury issued “The Black Revolutionary War Patriots Silver Dollar,” which featured Attucks’ likeness.
The revenues from the sale of the coins were meant for a Black Revolutionary War Patriots Memorial in Washington, DC.
Estimated Net Worth
The estimated net worth of Crispus Attucks is unknown.
Stevie Wonder’s song ‘Black Man,’ which features the phrase, ‘First man to die for the flag we now hold high was a black man,’ was dedicated to Attucks.
Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to the Boston attack and Attucks in the opening of his book ‘Why We Can’t Wait’.
Afrocentrist scholar Molefi Kete Asante selected Attucks in his list of ‘100 Greatest African Americans’ in 2002.
Wayne Brady, J. B. Smoove, Michael Kenneth Williams, and Keith David were featured in a parody rap music video about Crispus Attucks in 2012.