Crispus Attucks (1723-1770)

Portrait of Crispus Attucks.
Portrait of Crispus Attucks

Remembered as the "First to Die in the American Revolution", the life of Crispus Attucks is as controversial as the debates historians engage in when they discuss the negro runaway slave and question his place in history.

Who was Crispus Attucks? Was he a hero? Was he a patriot who died for freedom, or just someone who was in the wrong place at the wrong time?

The truth may never be known, but these facts we do know; He was born a negro slave and was believed to have had a Native American (Indian) mother. He was given the name Crispus Attucks. The name "Crispus" was most likely after Roman nobility "Crispus Ceasar" who was son of Constantine, c.300 AD. The name "Attucks" is believed to have been a Native American word -- many believe to also be the origin of the name for the Town of Natick (Massachusetts).

Painting: Death of Crispus Attucks at the Boston Massacre, by James Wells Champney (American artist)
Death of Crispus Attucks at the Boston Massacre
by James Wells Champney, (American artist, 1843-1908)

Read the original documents from The Trial of the British soldiers charged with the murder of Crispus Attucks and other patriots at the Boston Massacre.

The following text is from a fugitive slave notice which ran on October 2, 1750 in The Boston Gazette-

10 Pound Reward
For Return of Run Away Slave

Ran away from his master William Brown of Framingham on the 30th of Sept. last a mulatto fellow about 27 years of age, named Crispus, 6 feet and 2 inches high, short curl'd hair, his knees nearer together than common; and had on a light colour'd beaver skin coat, plain new buckskin breeches, blue yarn stockings and a checked woolen shirt. Whoever shall take up said runaway and convey him to his aforesaid master shall have 10 pounds old tenor reward, and all necessary charges paid. And all masters of vessels and others are hereby cautioned against concealing or carrying off said servant on penalty of law.

A poet wrote of Crispus Attucks and the Boston Massacre;

"And honor to Crispus Attucks,
who was leader and voice that day;
The first to defy,
and the first to die,
with Maverick, Carr and Gray.
It riot or revolution,
or mob or crowd as you may,
such deaths have been seeds of nations,
such lives shall be honored for ay".

- John Boyle O'Reilly

Comic Book (cover) Crispus Attucks and the Minutemen
"Crispus Attucks and the Minutemen" comic book from Fitzgerald Publishing Company's Golden Legacy Series, (1967).

Crispus Attucks is buried in the Granary Burial Ground, Boston, MA (USA).

A very good description of Crispus Attucks, his involvement in the March 5, 1770 Boston Massacre and other historical facts can be found in J.H. Temple's "History of Framingham 1640-1880", (published 1887). The first ten pages of Chapter V1, (pg. 246-256), under the title "War of the Revolution" provides some details of Attucks' life in Framingham, some details leading up Attucks' death, and some telling of the aftermath which ensued.

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