Posted by: Ron DuBour | February 28, 2019

Knowing your American Heroes~Crispus Attucks (c. 1723 – 1770)~by rldubour

Celebrating Black History Month:


Knowing your American Heroes

Crispus Attucks (c. 1723 – 1770)

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Crispus Attucks knew slavery

And racial discrimination.

Few facts are known of Crispus

Most is speculation.


The surname “Attucks” is believed

To be an Anglicisation.

Used by Praying Indians

Of the Wopanaak nation.


Born to an African black slave

Fathers name is Prince Younger.

A Native American Indian

Nancy Attucks was his mother.


Grew up with Colonel Buckminster

Then sold to Deacon William Brown.

Unhappy with his situation

Ran away to a different town.


He ended up in Boston, Mass.

Was then a manual laborer.

He worked as a rope maker

Some say he was a whaler.


The British occupied Boston

In seventeen-sixty-eight.

Growing unrest by the colonist

The soldiers were there to abate.


March fifth, seventeen-seventy

Violence was to erupt.

The British Twenty-ninth Regiment

Were called and would be abrupt.


Three Americans were killed

Two were mortally wounded.

Known as the Boston Massacre

Ideas of freedom now concluded.


Of the five to die that day

His name is commonly remembered.

An inspiration to black Americans

A man to be endeavored.


The first American killed

Led to the Revolutionary War.

An important figure in history

A hero and much more.


AUTHOR NOTES: Few facts are known about Crispus Attucks prior to his involvement with the Boston Massacre. Because slavery and racial discrimination were conditions of life in the 18th century, few detailed accounts of black Americans from that era survive. The name “Crispus” is mentioned in some records from the period that might be relevant, but this was a fairly common name and to connect these records to Crispus Attucks of the Boston Massacre is speculation. An American Indian named John Attucks was executed for treason in 1676 during King Philip’s War. In the 1700s, the surname “Attucks” was used by some Praying Indians around Natick and Framingham. This surname is believed to be an Anglicisation of the Wôpanââk word ahtuk meaning deer. Native people and black people frequently had children together in Colonial times as evidenced by accounts from early periods and by the prevalence today of African phenotypes among Indian tribal groups in New England and other long-established multiracial groups in the Eastern United States. This leads to speculation that Attucks had both African and Native American ancestry. An October 2, 1750, advertisement placed in the Boston Gazette read:…ran away from his Master William Brown on the 30th of Sept. last, a mulatto Fellow, about 27 years of age, named Crispus, 6 Feet two inches high, short curl’d Hair, his Knees near together than common: had on a light colour’d Bearskin Coat. Master William Brown offered a reward of £10 for his return. Given the lack of evidence to the contrary, this passage is often associated with Crispus Attucks of the Boston Massacre. In 1768, Boston was occupied by British soldiers to help control growing colonial unrest, but this only increased tensions with those colonists who opposed the presence of troops. On March 5, 1770, a crowd of colonists gathered and confronted a group of soldiers about an incident earlier that day in which a soldier struck a boy who confronted him over non-payment of a barber bill. As anger escalated, a church bell was struck (as it would in case of fire or other emergency), drawing people out of their homes. The British soldiers of the Twenty-ninth Regiment were called to duty in response. Townspeople began hurling snowballs and debris at the soldiers. A group of men led by Attucks approached the vicinity of the government building (now known as the Old State House) with clubs in hand. Violence soon erupted and a soldier was struck with a thrown piece of wood. Some accounts named Attucks as the person responsible. Others witnesses stated that Attucks was “leaning upon a stick” when the soldiers opened fire. The five who were killed were buried as heroes in the Granary Burying Ground, which contains the graves of John Hancock and other notable figures. Law and custom of the period prohibited the burial of black people and white people together, which in the racial terminology of the day suggests that Attucks was considered mulatto (mixed-race) rather than Negro (African). Attucks has often been praised in writing meant to inspire Americans to work towards the ideals of freedom and racial equality. In 1858, Boston-area Abolitionists established “Crispus Attucks Day.” In 1888, a monument honoring him was erected on Boston Common. In the poetry of John Boyle O’Reilly Attucks was described as “leader and voice that day; the first to defy, and the first to die…riot or revolution, or mob or crowd as you may, such deaths have been seeds of nations.” Martin Luther King, Jr., referred to Crispus Attucks in the introduction of Why We Can’t Wait (1964) as an example of a man whose contribution to history, though much-overlooked by standard histories, could be revered as a source of moral courage. 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. Crispus Attucks (c. 1723 – March 5, 1770), was the first of five people killed in the Boston Massacre. He has been frequently named as the first martyr of the American Revolution and is the only person killed in the Boston Massacre whose name is commonly remembered. He remains an important and inspirational figure in American history.

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