Crispus Attucks

Portrait of Crispus Attucks.

Crispus Attucks

c. 1723–March 5, 1770

Crispus Attucks was the first person killed by British regulars at the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770.

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Crispus Attucks was an African-American that had been born into slavery. He escaped and went on to be a seaman and rope maker in colonial Boston. He was involved in a mob that accosted British regulars on March 5, 1770. When the regulars retaliated, he was the first person killed in what was quickly known as the Boston Massacre. After his death, he would be remembered as a martyr and seen as a symbol of freedom during the American Revolution, and later on during the Abolition movement.

Facts About His Family

  • He was born around 1723, somewhere near Framingham, Massachusetts.
  • He was multiracial.
  • His father is believed to be Prince Yonger, a slave who came from Africa.
  • His mother is believed to be Nancy Attucks, a Natick Indian.

Facts About His Early Life and Profession

  • It is believed that he escaped from his master, William Browne, of Framingham, Massachusetts, on September 30, 1750.
  • He spent twenty years working on whaling ships coming in and out of Boston and also found work as a rope maker.

Facts About His Involvement in the Boston Massacre

  • There was tension between Boston laborers and the British soldiers. The soldiers were a threat to laborers like Attucks because they could take jobs and work away from them. The British Navy was also a threat because they could force laborers to join the Navy through impressment.
  • On March 2, 1770, a fight broke out between Boston rope makers and three British regulars, which increased tensions and set the stage for the events of March 5.
  • On March 5, a British soldier looking for work in a Boston pub was confronted by a group of Boston sailors and laborers, including Attucks.
  • Later that night, a group approached the guard in front of the customs house and started to taunt him. This caught the attention of some British regulars, under the command of Captain Thomas Preston, who came to the defense of the guard.
  • More Bostonians joined the mob and started throwing snowballs, rocks, and other things at the regulars.
  • Eyewitness accounts say that Attucks was carrying two wooden sticks and swung one of them at Captain Preston.
  • When the regulars opened fire on the mob, Attucks was the first of five men killed. He was shot twice in the chest. The others killed were: Samuel Gray, Samuel Maverick, James Caldwell, and Patrick Carr.
  • The event was instantly known and publicized as the “Boston Massacre” and the victims were presented as martyrs and symbols of liberty throughout the colonies.
  • The bodies of Attucks and the others were taken to Faneuil Hall, where they laid in state until March 8.
  • Boston city leaders waived segregation laws and allowed Attucks to be buried with the other victims. They were all buried together in a common grave at the Old Granary Burial Ground on Tremont Street.

Facts About the Legacy of Crispus Attucks

  • In the 1840s, he became a symbol of patriotism and citizenship for the abolitionist movement.
  • A monument to Attucks was unveiled on Boston Common in 1888.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Crispus Attucks
  • Coverage c. 1723–March 5, 1770
  • Author
  • Keywords Crispus Attucks, Boston Massacre
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date December 5, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 28, 2021
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