Crispus Attucks, the first patriot to die for America
On this date in 1723, we celebrate the birth of Crispus Attucks. He was a Black merchant and patriot.
Little is known about the early years of Attucks. He was born a slave around in the (then) colony of Massachusetts. His father, Prince Yonger, was African and his mother, Nancy Attucks, was an Indian and possible descendant of John Attucks, a member of the Natick Indian tribe. John Attucks was executed for treason in 1676 during the King Philip War. The word "attuck" in the Natick language means deer.
In 1750, young Attucks, a slave of William Brown of Framingham, was an successful horse and cattle trader who did business with white men. He used the money he made to try to buy his freedom from his owner, William Brown, who refused his offer. Attucks ran away. He was never caught and nothing was known of him for nearly 20 years before he resurfaced again. Historians guess that he escaped to Nantucket, MA, and sailed as a harpooner on a whaling ship.
During those years, the American colonies resented having to buy almost everything from England and were unhappy about the lack of free trade. The most outspoken protests came from Massachusetts Colony. The British king, George III, sent two regiments into the Boston Harbor in the fall of 1769. Many conflicts with the citizens of Boston resulted, and one drew in Attucks who was living in Boston On March 5, 1770, Attucks was eating dinner when he became aware of a fight between Boston men and British soldiers. He went to Dock Square to investigate.
It has been said that he picked up a stick and shouted to the crowd gathered there to follow him to King Street. When they arrived, Attucks went to the front of the crowd and struck at one of the British soldiers. The soldier fatally shot him twice. Four other men were killed and six more wounded. The next day, Attucks' body was taken to Faneuil Hall, and two days later, all the businesses were closed for his and the other victims' funeral. This event is known as the Boston Massacre.
In 1888, a Crispus Attucks monument was erected on Boston Common. In 1996, President Clinton enacted a Black Patriots Coin Law to commemorate African-American contributions to the founding of America. The coin was struck in 1998, the 275th anniversary of the birth of Crispus Attucks, the first man to die for America's freedom.
The African American Desk Reference
Schomburg Center for research in Black Culture
Copyright 1999 The Stonesong Press Inc. and
The New York Public Library, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Pub.
The African American Atlas
Black History & Culture an Illustrated Reference
by Molefi K. Asanta and Mark T. Mattson
Macmillam USA, Simon & Schuster, New York
Today in American History