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Definition: Attucks, Crispus from Chambers Biographical Dictionary


American revolutionary patriot

Nothing is known with certainty of his early life, but some historians identify him as the Massachusetts-born son of an African slave and a Natick Indian, who escaped from slavery and found work as a sailor on whaling ships. Accounts of the Boston Massacre (5 March 1770) describe him as a huge man, one of the foremost in the crowd of colonists that gathered to taunt a small group of British soldiers and the first to fall when the soldiers opened fire. He and the other four Americans killed in the massacre were hailed as martyrs by the independence movement and were buried in a common grave. His patriotism is honoured by a statue on Boston Common (erected 1888).

Summary Article: Crispus Attucks (c. 1723–1770)
from African American Almanac

Attucks, a runaway slave who lived in Boston, was the first of five men killed on March 5, 1770, when British troops fired on a crowd of colonial protesters in the Boston Massacre. The most widely accepted account of the incident is that of John Adams, who said at the subsequent trial of the British soldiers that Attucks undertook “to be the hero of the night; and to lead this army with banners, to form them in the first place in Dock Square, and march them up to King Street with their clubs.” When the crowd reached the soldiers it was Attucks who “had hardiness enough to fall in upon them, and with one hand took hold of a bayonet, and with the other knocked the man down.” At that point the panicked soldiers fired, and in the echoes of their volley, five men lay dying; the seeds of the Revolution were sown. Attucks is remembered as “the first to defy, the first to die.”

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