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Crispus Attucks

Crispus Attucks (1723 - March 5, 1770), an African American, who is traditionally accounted the first casualty in the American Revolution. Attucks, a runaway slave who had become a sailor and laborer, joined a crowd of 30 or so workers protesting against the presence of British troops in Boston.

Sailors resented the British because of the danger of press gangs and other workers were disturbed because British soldiers took part-time work at low wages to supplement their army pay. Revolutionary Samuel Adams had encouraged protest against the soldiers.

Tensions had been rising over the weekend when the crowd appeared before the British barracks. Attucks has been often depicted as one of the leaders of the crowd who defied the British. Eventually, in spite of attempts by their officers to prevent it, the soldiers fired, killing five members of the crowd, Attucks and four white men.

Sam 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".

Sam 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 Old Granary Burial Ground, despite laws against burying blacks with whites.

Some controversy remains over whether Attucks was a revolutionary leader or a rabble rouser, but it is possible that in 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.

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