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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Youngblood

Crispus Attucks: The First American Patriot


WIKIMEDIA COMMONS // PUBLIC DOMAIN


You could walk up to one hundred random strangers and asked them when did America declare its independence. Everyone should say with full confidence that on July 4th, 1776, America separated from Great Britain, which birthed the first-world power that over 300 million people lived today. Maybe those same individuals probably could tell you what lead the thirteen colonies to pull an “It’s not us, it’s you” moment to the most powerful nation of its time. However, there’s a 99.999999% chance that none of them knew Crispus Attucks, one of the first patriots to die for the idea of freedom.


On March 5, 1770, Attucks, a sailor of African and Native American descent, led a mob against the British soldiers in response to rising tension over the Townshend Acts and British soldiers taking over the workforce. They attacked the soldiers with snowballs, sea coals, and oyster shells as Attucks allegedly gave a loud war-whoop which encourage the mob further.

“Come on you rascals, you bloody backs, you lobster scoundrels, fire if you dare, God damn you, fire and be damned, we know you dare not.” These were his last words as a soldier fired point-blank at the middle-aged seaman, killing him instantly. In confusion, the soldiers shot at the colonist, killing four more. That night — known as the Boston Massacre — would be the match to light the flames of the American Revolution. Crispus Attucks, who just wanted to defend his opportunity to work, became the hidden martyr of American history.

Attucks was born into slavery in 1723 to an enslaved African man and a native Indian woman. At the age of 27, Attucks became a wanted man after running away from his enslaver, William Browne. There was a 10 British pound award for his capture, but he was never caught. He made his way to Boston and became a seaman, one of the few trades that black man could become. On that fateful night, he returned from the Bahamas and was about to head to North Carolina.

He was described as a massive man with a muscular figure. John Adams, the future President of the United States, was the defense attorney for the British soldiers. He used Attucks’s robust figure to justify the troop’s fear of their lives (doesn’t that sound familiar?). According to their testimony, he was front and center of the riots, fearlessly taking on armed troops with just his hands and a wooden stick.


His sacrifice was recognized by the masses, which was unheard of for black people at that time. Samuel Adams sent Attucks’ casket to Boston’s Faneuil Hall, where it stayed for three days before a public funeral. Between 10,000 to 12,000 came to honor and carried Attucks and the other victims to the gravesite to bury them. He became the prime example for the Black Abolitionist movement during the 1840s of Black Americans who fought for freedom as a patriot. In 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr wrote that many black children knew Crispus Attucks as the first American to lose his life to freed his country from British oppressors.

It’s a bit of sad irony that the man whose death led to the freedom of America would not be given to those who looked like him. Thankfully, in today’s time, his legacy will be that of a man who fought for his beliefs.



Resources


“Crispus Attucks, ‘The First To Defy, The First To Die’ in the Boston Massacre.” New England Historical Society, 2021. https://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/crispus-attucks-first-to-defy-the-first-to-die-in-the-boston-massacre/

Kiger, Patrick J. “8 Things We Know About Crispus Attucks.” History, 4, March 2021. https://www.history.com/news/crispus-attucks-american-revolution-boston-massacre





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