Attucks, Crispus - History

Attucks, Crispus - History

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Attucks, Crispus: African-American martyr: Crispus Attucks was the first American martyr in an event prior to the Revolutionary War itself. The son of a native African and a Native American of the Natick tribe, Attucks ran away from his slave owner and became a sailor and whaler. He learned to read and write and to understand the basic principles of different types of government. Attucks attended meetings with other patriots to discuss taxes levied by Britain, and wrote a letter of protest to Governor Thomas Hutchinson, the Tory governor of Massachusetts. On March 5, 1770, at Dock Square in Boston, Attucks was with a group of men who taunted the British Red Coats. He was the first man to die in the ensuing skirmish, later called the Boston Massacre. As the first to die for the American cause, he was buried with honor, and a monument on the Boston Common was erected to immortalize his sacrifice.

Crispus Attucks (1723-1770)

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).

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-

A poet wrote of Crispus Attucks and the Boston Massacre

"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.

More Crispus Attucks Related Links:

    - Documents and story about the trial of Crispus Attucks' murderers, (U.S. Library of Congress).

- PBS teachers resources and information.

- from book "Original Poems", Olivia Bush, published Providence, Rhode Island, by Louis A. Basinet Press, 1899.

- organization located in York, Pennsylvania (USA), actively promotes city rehabilitation projects and community programs. Site contains historical information about Crispus Attucks.

Black History Month: Crispus Attucks

—Guest blog written by Kat Fritz

In honor of February being Black History Month here in the USA, we’ll be sharing stories of Black individuals who contributed to the formation of America as we know it. Today, we’re sharing the history of Crispus Attucks: a revolutionary who sparked the American drive and desire for independence from England in the late 1700’s.

Crispus Attucks (c. 1723 – 1770)

Crispus Attucks was born into slavery during the eighteenth century. His mother was Nancy Attucks—a Natick Indian—and his father was believed to be an enslaved man named Prince Yonger. On March 5, 1770, Attucks rioted alongside other colonists in front of a customs house. The tension between the British soldiers and the civilians intensified, and the soldiers fired guns into the crowd. Attucks and four others were killed, and six more were injured in what would come to be known as the Boston Massacre: actions that would ignite the colonists’ hunger for American independence.

There is little information on Attucks’ life or family, but historians believe that he grew up in a town outside of Boston. Attucks ardently desired freedom, so he attempted to escape the bonds of slavery despite the consequences of the time. In 1750, a newspaper advertisement in the Boston Gazette offered 10 British pounds (plus expenses) for returning Crispus to his enslaver. Fortunately, the escape was successful: securing his freedom from the institution of slavery for the rest of his life. He became a mariner—one of the few occupations accessible to a non-white person. When he was not at sea on trading ships or whaling vessels, he found work as a ropemaker.

Crispus Attucks—like many other mariners—felt threatened by British rule. British soldiers and sailors often took part-time jobs from locals during their off-duty time: stealing positions from the local labor force. There was also the looming threat that Attucks could be forcibly drafted into the Royal Navy by British press gangs: roaming bands of soldiers who would capture men and boys, trapping them onboard military ships. With the British depressing wages and increasing taxes, tensions between colonists and the British were soaring, and bloodshed appeared inevitable.

On March 5, 1770, a British soldier entered a pub looking for work, but Crispus Attucks and other sailors responded with shouts and jeers. The events of that evening are a source of debate, but it is believed that a group of Bostonians started taunting a redcoat near Boston’s Old State House—one of the oldest structures in the United States and Boston’s oldest surviving public building. (Because it was a hotspot for economic and political news, the Declaration of Independence was read from its east balcony.)

Soldiers from the 29th Regiment of Foot came to their fellow soldier’s defense as the situation escalated. Attucks and other colonists struck the soldiers with clubs and sticks. There is no clear consensus on what happened next, but someone reportedly said, “Fire,” and a Redcoat shot into the crowd. Once the first shot rang out into the night, other British soldiers began firing. Attucks was shot twice in the chest, with the second shot proving fatal. Many accounts state that he was the first victim of the Boston Massacre.

Growing tensions in Boston led to the Boston Massacre of 1770.

The deaths of Attucks and the four other men unified the colonies against British rule, marking a turning point in United States history. Attucks became a martyr of liberty, paving the way for the American Revolution. Samuel Adams—a Founding Father of the United States—organized a procession to carry the caskets of Crispus Attucks and the other victims of the massacre (James Caldwell, Patrick Carr, Samuel Gray, and Samuel Maverick) to Boston’s Faneuil Hall to lay in state for three days before their public funeral. It is estimated that 12,000 people—half of Boston’s population at the time—joined the procession to the graveyard.

However, statements and depictions of the massacre reveal a great deal about the realities of the time. John Adams—who would later become the second president of the United States—defended the soldiers, vilifying Crispus Attucks as the aggressive instigator of the crowd. Adams argued that Attucks’ race, height, and musculature justified the fear of the Redcoats.

Historical views of Attucks are present in the four engravings of the Boston Massacre that circulated in 1770. The engravings served as colonial propaganda by illustrating the soldiers as an organized line against a defenseless crowd. The first was by Henry Pelham, who was neither credited nor paid for his work. Paul Revere—a patriot famous for warning Colonial troops of a British attack—copied Pelham’s illustration almost exactly and brought it to press days before Pelham did. Another man, Jonathan Mulliken, released his own version based on Revere’s.

Crispus Attucks

Though the engravings differed slightly, all the engravings had one detail in common: Crispus Attucks was illustrated without African American or Indigenous American features. A lithograph from J.H. Bufford’s Lithography Co. based on an illustration by W.L. Champney (1856) provided a new rendering of the event with Attucks as the central figure of the Boston Massacre. Most notably, it is also the first depiction of Crispus Attucks as a person of color. Additionally, despite the Boston Massacre’s influence on the American Revolution, Attucks is never mentioned in David Ramsay’s The History of the American Revolution (1789)—the first published account of the Revolution.

In 1851, to contest the ambiguity shrouding Attucks, seven Bostonians petitioned to erect a monument of Attucks to honor his role as the first causality of the American Revolution. One of the petitioners was William Cooper Nell: an African American abolitionist, historian, and author of The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution. In the book, Nell describes how their petition was denied while the monument of Isaac Davis was granted, noting that the difference between the two men was that Isaac Davis had been a White advocate of the American Revolution.

A gravestone commemorating the victims of the Boston Massacre – Granary Burial Ground, Boston, Massachusetts

Fortunately, thanks to the support of abolitionists, the Boston Massacre/Crispus Attucks monument was erected in 1888. The monument includes an illustration of the Boston Massacre where Attucks has African American and Indigenous American features.

Crispus Attucks became a symbol for abolitionism and the Civil Rights Movement, for he was a patriot who died rioting against oppressors. In Why We Can’t Wait (1964), Martin Luther King, Jr. noted that—despite Black erasure in history books—Black children knew Attucks was the first person to shed blood for their country in the revolution that freed the United States from its British oppressors. Attucks’ role in US history demonstrates a clear link between patriotism, freedom, and racial inequality.


Early 1920s Edit

Indianapolis was a largely segregated city in the early twentieth century, although three of its public high schools enrolled black students: Emmerich Manual High School, Arsenal Technical High School, and Shortridge High School. Overcrowding, especially at Shortridge, led Indianapolis Public Schools' board members to begin discussions on construction of a new high school. [3] : 11 [4] : 4 In 1922, as interest in building an all-black public high school increased, the IPS board decided to pursue the idea and began to move ahead with its plans. [2] : 26–27

Some white residents of the city, not wanting their children to attend an integrated high school, urged the school board to build a new public high school specifically for African-American students. However, some African Americans in the community adamantly opposed the establishment of an all-black high school and preferred an integrated public school system. [2] : 22–23 [4] : 12 Despite the differing viewpoints, the IPS board decided that all of the city's African American high school students would attend the new school. [3] : 12–13

Early years Edit

Crispus Attucks High School was built northwest of downtown Indianapolis, in the area that was known as the Bottoms, near the city's Central Canal and Indiana Avenue, which was the African American community's business and cultural hub. The Bottoms was also the largest and best-known area of the city's African American community. [3] : 11 [5]

The IPS board initially chose Thomas Jefferson High School as the name for the new school, but some members of the community objected to the choice and circulated petitions to have the name changed to Crispus Attucks High School. The school board reversed its decision and named the school in honor of Crispus Attucks, an American patriot. His ethnicity is now uncertain, but at the time the new school was named, it was believed he was a black man who was killed in the attack on British soldiers in Boston, Massachusetts, in March 1770 during what became known as the Boston Massacre. [2] : 32 [6] : 23 and 26

All the African American teenagers enrolled at the city's other public high schools such as Arsenal Technical High School, Washington High School, and Shortridge High School were moved to Crispus Attucks when it opened in 1927 with the promise that the Attucks students would receive a "separate but equal" education. [5] After Attucks opened, IPS administrators did not permit African-American students to attend any other public high school in the city until integration of the schools was mandated by law. [7] [8] Community activists who opposed the decision challenged the local school board through the legal justice system, but efforts to desegregate the city's schools continued for several decades after the school opened. [3] : 12–13

Students and faculty Edit

In addition to its students, Attucks's first principal, Matthias Nolcox, and its initial faculty were African Americans, making it the only all-black high school in Indianapolis. [5] [4] : 15 Nolcox recruited well-educated teachers for the new school from the traditionally black colleges in the South, as well as from high schools in other areas of the country. [2] : 32 While black students were allowed to attend colleges and universities, the schools of higher learning did not hire black educators for their faculties leaving a large group of over-qualified teachers forced to teach at the high-school level. [ citation needed ]

Indianapolis's new high school was originally planned for 1,000 students however, the estimate soon increased to 1,200 students, requiring Nolcox to hire additional staff to accommodate the projected increase in enrollment. The three-story, red brick school opened on September 12, 1927, with forty-two faculty and 1,345 students. Formal dedication ceremonies took place on October 28, 1927. After Attucks, Indiana had had two other all-black public high schools opened in the state: Gary's Roosevelt High School and Evansville's Lincoln High School. [2] : 35–36 and 53 [9]

From the beginning, overcrowding was a persistent problem at Attucks. The IPS board authorized the remodeling of IPS Number 17, a school building adjacent to Attucks, to house the overflow of students. Nolcox served as principal of both facilities. [2] : 39 Thomas J. Anderson replaced Nolcox as the school's second principal from July to September 1930. An interim principal briefly assumed Anderson's duties until Russell A. Lane, who was hired as one of the school's original English teachers, was named the new principal later that fall. [2] : 47–48

Lane continued to hire well-educated faculty for the school. At a time when most other high schools in the city had teachers with undergraduate bachelor's degrees, several of Attucks's teachers had master's degrees or PhDs. [5] [6] : 39 During these early years, Attucks's percentage of teachers with advanced degrees was higher than any other school in the area. [10] : 9 By 1934 Attucks had sixty-two faculty members seventeen of them had master's degrees and two had doctorate degrees. [3] : 32 In 1935–36, the school had grown to include sixty-eight faculty and 2,327 students. A freshman center was added to the high school in 1938 to assist with the overcrowded conditions. [2] : 52

Curriculum and events Edit

Attucks offered an extensive curriculum, including general education courses such as math, sciences, language arts, art, music, physical education, as well as home economics and industrial arts courses to provide vocational training. Because of its faculty and varied curriculum, Attucks became known for its excellence in academics, in addition to its successful athletic programs. [2] : 11 and 43 [3] : 12–13

The Indianapolis Recorder, the local newspaper for the African American community, publicized school events, which helped to bring Attucks's various activities to the public's attention. The school became a gathering place and a source of pride for the city's African American community. The school's athletic teams, especially its basketball program, "represented the African American community in Indianapolis." [3] : 12–13 [11] : 2

To encourage the students and show support for the school, several celebrities made visits to the school and addressed gatherings of the student body. Notable visitors included Jesse Owens, Langston Hughes, Thurgood Marshall, George Washington Carver, and Floyd Patterson, as well as other notable athletes, authors, scientists, politicians, and civil rights activists who came to the city to speak the previous Sunday at the nearby Senate Avenue Young Men's Christian Association's speakers' series, called "Monster Meetings". [2] : 45 [10] : 13

1940s and 1950s Edit

Desegregation of the city's schools became a major issue in the late 1940s and during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Despite the state legislature's passage of mandatory desegregation laws in 1949, the IPS board approved a gradual desegregation plan and Attucks remained an all-black high school, largely due to residential segregation. During this period the high school's enrollment began to decline from 2,364 students in 1949 to 1,612 in 1953. [11] : 3 [2] : 59–60 and 62–63 Attucks had two white educators on its faculty in 1956 and continued to remain the only "high school in the city with a single-race student body." [11] : 3 [2] : 64

1950s basketball team state championships Edit

The Indiana High School Athletic Association, the governing body for athletic teams in the state, refused full membership to private, parochial, and all-black high schools until 1942, when full membership opened to include all of the state's three- and four-year high schools. The change in membership allowed Attucks and the state's other all-black high schools, as well as Indiana's Catholic high schools to participate for the first time in IHSAA-sanctioned basketball tournaments. [3] : 14 [6] : 37 and 44 Attucks had good success in basketball during the 1950s producing two Indiana Mr. Basketballs: Hallie Bryant [12] and Oscar Robertson. [13] In addition to Bryant and Robertson, several other Attucks players and coaches have been inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. [14]

The Attucks Tigers made it to the IHSAA state basketball championship game for the first time in 1951, but lost to Evansville's Reitz High School, 66–59. [3] : 23 [2] : 77 On March 19, 1955, the Attucks team, led by future professional star and National Basketball Association Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson, won the IHSAA's state championship, beating Gary's Roosevelt High School, 97–64, and becoming the first all-black school in the nation to win a state title. Robertson led Attucks to another championship in 1956, beating Lafayette's Jefferson High School, 79–57, and becoming the first state champion team in IHSAA history to complete a season undefeated since the state tournament began in 1911. [6] : 137, 140, 161, and 164 The Attucks Tigers won its third IHSAA state basketball championship in 1959. [10] : 40 Because the school's black student athletes played and won contests with predominately white teams, historians have pointed out that Attucks's successful basketball program also "mobilize the black community" and served as "role models for black youths". [10] : 6

1960s–1990s Edit

By the 1960s Indianapolis's racial and class segregation lead to changes at AttucksAs the city's black middle class moved to other neighborhoods, some of their children were enrolled at Shortridge and Arsenal Tech high schools, while the children of poorer African Americans continued to attend Attucks. [10] : 14 In addition, the IPS board continued to ignore the federal government's suggestions for integration of its schools. In 1970 U.S. District Court Judge Hugh S. Dillin "found IPS guilty of operating a segregated school system." [11] : 4 Although IPS opened an integrated secondary campus on Cold Springs Road in 1970 to help ease some of the overcrowding at Attucks, the main high school building remained a segregated school while appeals of the federal court's decision continued. As a result of the lengthy appeals process, sources indicate that it is difficult to specify an exact date for Attucks's formal desegregation. School historians believe that the first white students enrolled at Attucks's main campus in 1971, although others have suggested that it occurred in 1968. [6] : 172 [10] : 15 [2] : 147

In 1981, IPS administrators considered closing the high school due to rapidly declining enrollment. Attucks's student body was 973 in 1980, but enrollment had fallen to 885 in 1985. [2] : 148–50 Although many opposed the idea, Attucks was converted from a high school to a junior high school in 1986, and became a middle school in 1993. [6] : 172–73 [4] : 16 The building was placed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1989 and the Indiana Historical Bureau erected a state historical marker at the school in 1992. [11] : 4 [15]

2000s–present Edit

Attucks reverted to a high school in 2006, [4] : 16 when IPS superintendent Eugene White announced the formation of the Crispus Attucks Medical Magnet, changing the school from a middle school to a medical preparatory school for grades 6–12. The designation as a medical magnet school is partially due to the school's proximity to the campus of the Indiana University School of Medicine and its associated hospitals. The change was made by adding one grade each year. The magnet school's first class graduated in 2010 its first class to complete the full medical magnet program graduated in 2013. [ citation needed ] Attucks restored its basketball program in 2008 as an IHSAA Class 3-A school. The team won the Class 3-A title on March 25, 2017, its first state basketball championship since 1959. [6] : 173 and 175–77

Exterior Edit

The school covers a two-square-block area and was built in three phases: a three-story, flat-roofed main building with an E-shaped plan on the east, constructed in 1927 a three-story addition to the west of the main building and a two-story gymnasium, built in 1938 and a newer, two-story gymnasium constructed in 1966. The main building, designed by local architects Merritt Harrison and Llewellyn A. Turnock, as well as the 1938 addition, reflect Collegiate Gothic (or Tudor Revival) and Classical Revival styles of architecture. The main building is constructed primarily of red brick and includes buff-colored glazed terra-cotta detailing. The red-brick addition built in 1938 has similar architectural detailing but uses limestone instead of terra cotta. The newer red-brick gymnasium built in 1966 has concrete vertical and horizontal bands. [5]

The main façade, facing east, dates to 1927 and has a center section and nearly identical projecting sections at each end. The center section's one-story entrance foyer has three pairs of entry doors with fanlights and a terra-cotta belt-course separating a terra-cotta balustrade, above, from a round-arched, terra-cotta arcade, below. Each of center section's two upper stories contain panels with terra-cotta detailing around a grouping of three windows. Terra-cotta panels on the second include a lyre, laurel leaves, and violins in bas relief. Terra-cotta panels above the third-floor windows contain the words "Attucks High School" inscribed in Old English typeface. Windows along the main façade are grouped in threes (a pair of smaller windows on either side of a double window). A belt-course runs across the entire main façade above the first-floor lintels and windows. Upper-story windows have terra-cotta molding above the lintels and windows. [5]

The north façade shows the original, three-story section on the east with two wings flanking a center section. There are entrances in each wing and nine windows on each floor of the center section. The two upper stories of the original building have windows set in three terra-cotta panels. Oil lamps and other decorations in bas relief decorate the panels separating the first and second floors. Each story of the 1938 red-brick and limestone addition has four groupings of windows, each one with four windows, and limestone details. The three-story addition rests on a limestone foundation. The two-story gymnasium, built to the west of the 1938 addition, has an entry framed with a limestone arch. The word "Gymnasium" is inscribed in Old English typeface on a stone tablet above the arch. A newer gymnasium, constructed of brick with concrete bands, was added to the west of the older gymnasium in 1966. The main entrance to the new gymnasium is on the north side. A side entry is on the building's south elevation. The south façade contains the main building constructed in 1927 (similar in appearance to the north façade) and a one-story greenhouse, also original to the building. Interconnected additions on the south façade include the 1938 addition, service areas, and loading docks constructed at various times. There is also a five-story, red-brick smokestack. [5]

Interior Edit

The original 1927 school building has classrooms double-loaded corridors arranged in a square around the auditorium. Notable features of the original interior include the main entry foyer with its terrazzo floors and a triple-arched arcade with terra-cotta columns. The plastered ceilings of the foyer and auditorium have exposed beams. [5] The Crispus Attucks museum was also established in another section of the building. [4] : 16

The Silence of the Ellipses: Why History Can’t be about Telling Our Children Lies

SAM WINEBURG ([email protected] @samwineburg) is the Margaret Jacks Professor of Education and (by courtesy) History at Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA. He is the author of Why Learn History (When it&rsquos Already on your Phone) (University of Chicago Press, 2018).

The story of Crispus Attucks and his role in the Boston Massacre opens the chapter called &ldquoThe Coming of the Revolution&rdquo in The Americans (Danzier et al., 2014), published by Holt McDougal/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, one of the three publishing behemoths that dominate the American market. Attired in formal jacket and ruffled white shirt, his portrait graces the side of the page, even though that portrait is a sheer fabrication. Few seaman had the leisure, not to mention the means, to sit for formal portraiture in 1770. Attucks, the text says, was &ldquopart of a large and angry crowd that had gathered at the Boston Custom House to harass the British soldiers stationed there. More soldiers soon arrived, and the mob began hurling stones and snowballs at them. Attucks then stepped forward.&rdquo A quotation from John Adams comes next, in which the Founding Father calls Attucks a &ldquohero&rdquo:

This Attucks . . . appears to have undertaken to be the hero of the night and to lead this army with banners . . . up to King street with their clubs . . . . This man with his party cried, &ldquoDo not be afraid of them,&rdquo . . . He 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.

Attucks&rsquos action ignited the troops. Ignoring orders not to shoot civilians, one soldier and then others fired on the crowd. Five people were killed several were wounded. Crispus Attucks was, according to a newspaper account, the first to die.

Attucks&rsquo appearance in textbooks is a relatively recent phenomenon. Eclipsed from memory from the 1770s well into the 19th century, he was resurrected in 1851 by William Cooper Nell, an African American journalist and historian, author of the Services of Colored Americans in the Wars of 1776 and 1812. By mid-century, Attucks emerged as a symbol for abolitionists, Black and white. In 1888, Boston&rsquos Black community unveiled a monument in his honor (over the objections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, who believed that the &ldquofamous mulatto was a rowdyish person&rdquo and &ldquonot a fit candidate for monumental honors&rdquo The New York Times, 1888, p. 4).

It wasn&rsquot until the civil rights movement of the 1960s that Attucks became a regular feature in textbooks. Among the first was Henry Graff&rsquos 1967 The Free and the Brave, which stated that &ldquoAttucks and his fellow victims had become the first martyrs in the American struggle against Britain.&rdquo A review of seven textbooks published between 2003 and 2009 found that all but one featured Attucks in their narration of the Boston Massacre (Kachun, 2017).

The Americans not only features Attucks but goes the extra mile by including his portrait and the quotation from John Adams. Knowing little else, readers would assume that John Adams was paying tribute to a fallen martyr when he called Attucks the &ldquohero of the night.&rdquo Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Adams&rsquo words were, in fact, part of his summation at the trial of the eight British soldiers accused of murder, a trial in which Adams served as counsel for the defense.

In taking the case, Adams faced a formidable challenge: how to undermine the jury&rsquos natural allegiance with the slain victims and make them identify with the reviled British soldiers. He did so by driving a wedge between upstanding Bostonians and the &ldquomotley rabble of saucy boys, negroes, and molattoes, Irish teagues and outlandish jack tarrs&rdquo (that is, ill-mannered non-whites, lowly Catholics, and uncouth seamen) responsible for the bloodshed (Trial of the British Soldiers, 1824). These hooligans were a different stock from &ldquothe good people of the town.&rdquo Indeed, Adams stated, &ldquoWhy we should scruple to call such a set of people a mob, I can&rsquot conceive, unless the name is too respectable for them.&rdquo

According to Adams, Crispus Attucks was a hero all right: the kind of hero who presided &ldquoat the head of such a rabble of Negroes, &c. as they can collect together,&rdquo a hero commanding his &ldquomyrmidons&rdquo who were &ldquoshouting and huzzaing, and threatening life . . . throwing every species of rubbish they could pick in the street.&rdquo Adams repeatedly plied the trope of the fearsome non-white body and exclaimed that the looming figure of the &ldquostout Attucks was enough to terrify any person,&rdquo including the besieged British soldiers.

Tracing where footnote-less textbooks get their information can be an exercise in futility. Not so with The Americans. The textbook&rsquos authors cited The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution, first published in 1973, by the University of Massachusetts historian Sidney Kaplan and his wife Emma, as the source for the Adams quote. Fairness demands that we consider the possibility that it was the Kaplans who doctored Adams&rsquo quote, and that the textbook authors, failing to check the original, merely reproduced it. Yet, while noting that the local press singled out Attucks for both praise and blame, the Kaplans wrote that for John Adams &ldquoit was all blame.&rdquo In their quote from Adams&rsquo summation, they leave intact the charged racial language referencing Attucks&rsquo menacing figure (&ldquoa stout Molatto fellow, whose very looks was enough to terrify any person&rdquo) and role as instigator (the &ldquohead of such a rabble of Negroes, &c. as they can collect together&rdquo). The Americans, on the other hand, hides these references in the ellipses.

With the Kaplans&rsquo text in hand, the authors of The Americans made a choice. Instead of helping young Americans see how a Black (or mixed race) body was stamped from the beginning, to invoke Ibram X. Kendi&rsquos phrase, they performed laser surgery on Adams&rsquo words in an act that would do Winston Smith proud.

I have to imagine that in editing John Adams&rsquo words, The Americans&rsquo authors thought they were doing something noble: giving American children of all hues a hero who is a person of color. But the sly three dots of an ellipsis cannot erase the stain of racism any more than a bathroom spray can eliminate the stench of a skunk. Editorial subterfuge only forestalls a reckoning.

As Farah Peterson (2018) notes, Black people are allowed onto the stage of American history only if they satisfy certain conditions: &ldquowhen they intersect with the triumphal tale of the creation of a white American republic.&rdquo By depicting Crispus Attucks as a hero, lauded by John Adams, The Americans presents an image of a Founding Father and a Black patriot standing together as fellow lovers of liberty. A more honest approach would present Adams&rsquo words more completely and prompt an examination of the hoary legacy of race-baiting, stretching from Crispus Attucks to the Scottsboro boys to Michael Brown.

Who is Crispus Attucks? (with pictures)

Crispus Attucks (1723 – 1770) went down in history as the first black man to fight for the independence of America from the hands of the British. Little is known of this man, but he is credited with leading the fateful event known as The Boston Massacre, on 5 March 1770. This event is thought of by many as the backbone of the American Revolution, which paved the way for an independent America.

Early Years

Attucks was born in 1723 in Framingham, Massachusetts to parents who were slaves belonging to Colonel Buckminster many say his father was brought to America from Africa as a slave, and his mother was a Nantucket Indian also forced into slavery. Crispus reportedly had two siblings, an older sister named Phebe, and a younger brother who died from a fever when Attucks was seven years old. Crispus and his father toiled in the vast plantation fields and farms, while his mother and sister cleaned the Colonel’s house. They received no education, because the Colonel feared that literacy would eventually lead to rebellion.

Young Crispus abhorred the fact that he was a slave. He began shirking his daily duties, daydreaming instead of the day he would escape his life of servitude. The Colonel became increasingly frustrated with Attucks' lack of responsibility and finally sold him to Deacon William Brown, also from Framingham. Crispus was 16 years old at the time.

Attucks worked diligently for Brown, trading cattle and traveling to seek new business. A decade later, he escaped to freedom when he took a job as a harpoonist on a whaling ship. Despite a fugitive slave notice in the Boston Gazette, Crispus was never caught. The next twenty years of his life are unknown as they were never documented.

Increasing Tension

The American political scene changed in 1767, when the British Parliament introduced the Townshend Acts. Much to the wrath of American businessmen, these acts incurred taxes on certain imported goods like tea and paper. Tension rose even higher when 4,000 British soldiers were deployed in Boston in October 1768. The sight of British redcoats fueled the Americans’ anger.

In February 1770, a redcoat soldier shot into a crowd of mocking Americans and inadvertently killed a young boy. This prompted Crispus’ reappearance in Boston and his first noted moment in history. He rose onto a mounted platform and spoke to the American crowd about gaining freedom from the British.

On 5 March 1770, Crispus called upon Americans to march against imperial authority. His action was allegedly spurred by an event that had occurred earlier that day when an argument between a redcoat and a barber’s apprentice grew heated after the soldier refused to pay for services rendered. This finally ended in the soldier striking the apprentice with the butt of his musket. A crowd of angry witnesses gathered and Crispus led them and others to what later came to be known as the Boston Massacre.

The Boston Massacre

Attucks led a group of almost 60 patriots in a march towards King Street. They stood face to face with Captain Thomas Preston and his eight troops of the 29th Regiment. Muskets and bayonets were drawn as Crispus and his loyal followers attacked the soldiers with snowballs and sticks. When a soldier was struck down, someone cried, “Fire!” and shots rang out immediately, killing Attucks and four other patriots. This event soon became known as the Boston Massacre and Crispus, having been the first to die during the historical event, is now known its leader.

Honoring Crispus

The American public has commemorated Crispus Attucks in many ways. Historians claim that several days after his death, a funeral procession was attended by an estimated 10,000 people to the Old Granary Burial Ground where Crispus was buried. Paul Revere (1734–1818) engraved the famous print known as ‘The Boston Massacre’ just 21 days after Crispus' death while the main purpose of the engraving was to create propaganda for the American Revolution, it also serves as an informal memorial to Crispus as it includes the words "The Bloody Massacre" at the top of the engraving. Poet John Boyle O’Reilly (1844–1890) described Crispus as being ‘the first to defy, and the first to die’ in one of his poems.

In 1888, the Crispus Attucks Monument was built on Boston Common. The Black Patriots Coin Law was enacted in 1996, which paved the way for the production of the Black Revolutionary War Patriots Silver Dollar coin in 1998, honoring of all African American patriots who played a role in the foundation of America, including Attucks.

Floor Plans

NARRATOR 1: This Indiana Bicentennial Minute is made possible by the Indiana Historical Society and the law firm of Krieg Devault.

Black and white film footage shows men playing basketball, followed by images of players holding championship trophies.

JANE PAULEY: Indiana’s had high school basketball champion teams for 105 years but none made a bigger social impact than the Cripus Attucks champs of 1955.

Images and videos of a brick school, basketball players on and off the court, and fans cheering appear on screen.

JANE PAULEY: Attucks was Indianapolis’ all black high school, opened in 1927 but not allowed to compete against white schools until 1942. In ’55, led by Oscar Robertson, the tigers won the state title, repeated the next year, and won it again in 1959. A justice department suit ended school segregation here though Indianapolis Star columnist, Bob Collins, wrote “The success of Attucks basketball integrated the high schools of Indianapolis”. Crispus Attucks student athletes had made their mark on history.

Text on the screen reads visit for more information, with an image of cheerleaders cheering in the background.

JANE PAULEY: I’m Jane Pauley with this Indiana Bicentennial Minute.

NARRATOR: made possible by the Indiana Historical Society and the law firm of Krieg Devault.

Crispus Attucks made history — and change

For almost three decades Crispus Attucks High School quietly went about its business, serving as Indianapolis' segregated black high school.

Opened in 1927, Attucks produced mechanics, tailors and stenographers, doctors, lawyers, judges, professors, musicians, military officers and politicians. It was a source of pride for the black community, a center for social activities.

Most of Indianapolis hardly noticed.

That is, until March 19, 1955, when Attucks accomplished what every high school in the state of Indiana dreams of.

The Tigers' state basketball championship marked the first time an all-black school won an open state tournament anywhere in the nation. It was also the first state basketball title for a team from Indianapolis.

To millions watching on TV or listening to the radio statewide, the school built to rid Indianapolis schools of black students was being proudly called: "Indianapolis Crispus Attucks."

After the game, in accordance with tournament tradition, the winning team piled onto a firetruck for the triumphant ride from Butler Fieldhouse to Monument Circle.

60 years after first state title, hopes high again at Crispus Attucks

But unlike the Downtown celebration the year before, when Milan had time to bask in the glory and pose for photos, the Attucks team made one quick lap around the Circle and a beeline up Indiana Avenue to Northwestern Park for a bonfire.

The route had been decreed days earlier in a meeting at the Indianapolis Public Schools superintendent's office, attended by representatives of the mayor's office, the Fire Department and the police, who feared riots and wanted the Attucks contingent back in its own part of town as quickly as possible.

"I guess they felt black people would tear up Downtown," said basketball legend Oscar Robertson, the team's best player, for whom that hurt remains keen.

"I was part of Indiana basketball history. I wasn't an asterisk on the side, and neither were the other guys on the Crispus Attucks team. We were a part of the Indiana High School Athletic Association, and we shouldn't have been treated that way."

Willie Merriweather, another star of that team, just remembers being a happy kid.

Now that the school is back in the spotlight for a celebration of the 50th anniversary of that championship, memories and attitudes are as different as the people who experienced the racial discrimination of the time.

Yet all agree that the legacy of the basketball glory is much bigger than sports. Basketball introduced the team and the school as a collection of people, with names and faces and talents. Friendships that formed on the court and in the stands helped to mend a racially frayed city. It was a start.

"Should this stuff be brought up again?" Merriweather, now 69, mused. "In my mind, it should. Because it has a history to it. It has a good ending to it."

Attucks, he said, "started out one way, and it ended up another way. I think the team and the accomplishment brought together the city to a large extent. And it's a true story."


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Crispus Attucks High School was first planned in 1922 by city leaders for the purpose of segregating the 800 black students who were, at the time, attending Manual, Shortridge and Tech high schools alongside white students. (The Ku Klux Klan was influential in city politics at the time, but scholars of the period stress that building the school was a city, not a Klan, decision.)

By the time the school opened at West and 12th streets five years later, it already was too small. The black population was growing along with the region's industry, and 1,350 students reported to the school built for 1,000.

From the beginning, the focus inside the brick structure with the stately colon naded entry was on academics, which is where the conversation with Attucks grads starts to this day.

With black educators no more welcome than black students in the white schools, Attucks was able to attract an impressive faculty, possibly the best in the city. Almost every teacher had a master's degree, and many had doctorates.

Matthias Nolcox and Russell Lane, the school's first two principals who served a combined 30 years, had degrees from Ivy League schools Lane received his law degree from Indiana University. They recruited top-flight educators from across the country, black men and women who believed in education and in the students of Crispus Attucks.

Betty Crowe, a 1948 Attucks graduate and the wife of coach Ray Crowe during the basketball glory years, described Attucks using the adage: "They gave us lemons, and we made lemonade."

Gilbert Taylor, a 1955 Attucks graduate who has a doctorate and is curator of the Attucks Museum at the school, added: "I did not realize (when I was a student) that we had two or three attorneys on our faculty. I did not realize that we had Buffalo Soldiers, that we had Tuskegee Airmen, that we had members of the Golden 13 (the first black U.S. naval officers), all here on the faculty at Attucks. They never mentioned that. They were not about ego. Their pride came from you and your accomplishments."

Robertson has called the school "a miraculous place." Hallie Bryant, The Star's Indiana Mr. Basketball in 1953, called it "a blessing in disguise a paradox."

One thing Crispus Attucks wasn't was a sports palace.

On the first day of school in 1927, The Star wrote: "Opening of the Crispus Attucks high school . . . gave the colored high school students of Indianapolis their own building, planned and designed to meet their requirements for education. This is the first time these students have occupied a building devoted exclusively to them.

"The new high school embodies features not found in other school buildings of the city. Since the traditions of the Negro race are deeply founded in music, that art has been especially emphasized in the new building.

"In the central portion of the building is a large auditorium with seating capacity for 800 and a combination stage/gymnasium."

In other words, the school was built without a real gym.

Not that that mattered much in the early years, when Attucks was denied membership in the Indiana High School Athletic Association. The reasoning went that it wasn't a "public" school because white students were not included.

In those days, the basketball team had to travel great distances to play other black schools, which meant Attucks played very few games.

Even after the IHSAA agreed to let its members schedule games with Attucks, local teams weren't interested. The Tigers traveled by bus all across the state, playing games in small towns where they were greeted with curiosity, like the barnstorming Globetrotters.

On the long rides, the players ate sack lunches. Hotels and restaurants were out of the question. Even after Attucks started drawing well enough to have the money in its athletic budget for such luxuries, the Jim Crow practices of the time -- rules, often unwritten, banning blacks from "white" hotels, restaurants and bathrooms, among other places -- didn't allow it.

Lane, the late principal, who had been among the most active in the campaign to have Attucks admitted to the IHSAA, was the guiding force behind those early teams. He would suffer the long, cold bus rides. He would sit in the bleachers, visiting with his white hosts while keeping a sharp eye on his students.

He instructed his coaches to put sportsmanship above all else, certainly above winning. That was the way, he believed, to break down the barriers between races.

He chose players who he thought would best represent the school, and they played in the style of the day, flat-footed, with a required number of passes before shots.

That changed in 1950, when Ray Crowe became coach.

Crowe had grown up on a farm near Franklin and had played basketball against and alongside white players. His coach at Whiteland High School had threatened to bench him if he let himself get pushed around on the court.

Crowe believed in student-athletes, fair play and gentlemanly behavior. As he wrote in 1952, in a paper outlining his coaching philosophy, the players needed to be aware of "the relationship between their attitudes and the morale of the community." He benched great players for slacking in schoolwork and for, in today's parlance, "talking trash."

In Crowe's seven years as coach, Attucks won 179 games and lost 20.

Bobby Plump, sitting in his Broad Ripple pub, named Plump's Last Shot for his game-winning basket in the 1954 state title game, paused recently to marvel at the glory days of Attucks basketball.

This man who led one of the few tournament victories over Attucks back then spoke in a dramatic hushed tone as he described the Tigers' sustained success. The streaks. The number of victories. Close wins over great teams. More often, huge margins of victory.

"They dominated," Plump said. "I mean, they dominated.

"Now," he added, "when you take that dominance and then add the prejudice of the time, you have a very volatile situation."

Aware of the volatile situation, Crowe insisted that his players not react openly to the many obstacles they faced, including biased officiating.

It was often so bad that the media, black and white, cringed. After the foul call that Crowe later called "the worst he had seen in a lifetime of watching sports," a last-minute call on Hallie Bryant that likely cost Attucks the 1953 semistate title, five Indianapolis News writers signed an editorial column in protest.

The Star's Bob Collins also questioned the call, and Tiny Hunt wrote in the Versailles Republican: "Such deplorable refereeing calls into question the very integrity of the tournament."

Al Spurlock, Crowe's assistant coach during those years, said: "Ray would always say, 'We have to beat seven men.' "

Betty Crowe said: "Ray told the boys, 'The first 10 points you get are for the referees, and then you play the game.' He'd say, 'Don't look at me when they make a bad call. Just raise your hand and then make more baskets.'

"The kids would get mad. I'd get mad, too. But Ray would sit there calmly. (In the stands) we'd all be yelling and screaming and fussing, and he'd just sit there. It kept the boys calm."

There were threats, many stemming from gambling. The big crowds, high interest and emotional allegiances made betting on Attucks games serious business.

Before a game against Tech during the 1953-54 season, threats were made against Dave Huff and Don Sexson of Tech and Robertson, Winfred O'Neal and Bill Mason of Attucks. Huff's family insisted that he sit out the game, which Attucks won.

Before the 1953 Indiana-Kentucky All-Star Game, the headline HALLIE BRYANT THREATENED was printed on Page 1 of The Star, just below ROSENBERG SPIES EXECUTED.

Asked about it this month, Bryant shrugged. "I played well that night. I've been on playgrounds where people threaten you every day."

John Gipson, who played on the '55 title team, framed the Tigers' ability to deal with adversity this way: "They were hanging people in the South."

Plump, who decades later would serve as a pallbearer at the funeral of Oscar Robertson's older brother, Bailey, remembers the prejudice he witnessed when he and his Milan teammates came in from Ripley County.

"We'd be walking around the corner from our hotel to get something to eat at the Apex Diner, and people driving by would see our jackets and yell at us, 'You guys better beat those niggers.' We were shocked," Plump said. "We didn't hear that in our community, of course, because it was a white community.

"The prejudice in the 1950s was just awful. But from a basketball standpoint, I can tell you, as players we sure didn't think that way. We'd played other teams that had black players. It was no big deal. We thought of Attucks as a bunch of guys we intended to beat. That's all we were thinking about -- basketball."

The more Attucks won, the more tournament games the Tigers played in front of large, mixed crowds, the more accepted they became -- at least among the younger generation. Not by everyone, and not all at once. But it was happening.

"We were on the cutting edge then between staunch segregation and the beginning of integration," said Bill Hampton, who played for the '55 team. "Reaction to us was about half and half."

Maxine Stantley Coleman, a cheerleader for Attucks, remembers being quite sure that, beyond the Attucks fans, the big tournament crowds were not rooting for the Tigers. But, she said, with the victories came some progress, "a little bit at a time." She said the players probably were more accepted than the rest of the students.

Said Robertson: "The way we played and won, we did it with a lot of class. We played in the parks with the white kids and black kids. I knew a lot of kids on other teams, white and black."

The first breakthrough on the court came during Crowe's first season, 1950-51, when Attucks defeated Anderson in the regional final on a last-second shot by Bailey "Flap" Robertson. The Tigers made it to the Final Four before losing in the afternoon to Evansville Reitz, 66-59.

The next season the Tigers lost in the sectional to Tech. After the controversial call in the semistate round cost them a chance at the '53 title, they came back in '54 to make it to the semistate championship game, where, missing Merriweather and O'Neal because of injuries, they lost to Milan by 13.

In 1955, it all came together.

Attucks rolled through the regular season with an average winning margin of 22 points. The only game the Tigers lost was a strange one.

Playing on a snowy night in Connersville's small, packed gym, Attucks' game of running and pressing was neutralized after someone opened a door to give the sweltering crowd some air. In no time, there was condensation on the floor -- which sat atop an old swimming pool -- and both teams spent the second half slipping and sliding. Attucks lost, 58-57.

The Tigers entered the tournament with a record of 20-1 and breezed through the sectional and regional rounds. For the semistate title, Attucks stared down top-ranked Muncie Central, 71-70.

At the Final Four the next Saturday, after Attucks' easy afternoon victory over New Albany, that school's cheerleaders followed tradition and joined the cheerleaders of the finalists.

White cheerleaders, alongside black.

"Even now," Robertson wrote nearly 50 years later in his autobiography, "it's one of the little details in my life that helps me, when I look back."

Nearly 15,000 fans packed Butler Fieldhouse on the night of March 19, 1955. It was standing room only.

No need to worry about racism from officials: The opponent was another segregated school. Gary Roosevelt, built shortly after Attucks and for the same reason, also had made a quick rise once it was allowed to play in the tournament. The finalists represented two of the three all-black high schools in the state the third was Evansville Lincoln.

True to form, Attucks jumped to a big lead and won going away, 97-74.

In the final minute, the crowd was cheering for an unheard-of 100 points, and for Robertson, who had 30, to go after the four-game scoring title (for the semistate and Final Four). He got the ball and could have tied the mark, but he passed to a player who hadn't yet scored. In the end, eight Attucks players scored that night.

Attucks fans started their famous "Crazy Song" early, which always drove their opponents crazy.

It includes a refrain familiar to Cab Calloway fans: "Hi-de, hi-de, hi-de, Hi . . . Hi-de, hi-de, hi-de, Ho." The Attucks version follows with, "They could beat everybody But they can't beat us!"

As the horn sounded, fans rushed onto the floor.

The champions dominated the front pages of the Indianapolis newspapers and were splashed on sports pages throughout the state. The Chicago Tribune headline read: "Indianapolis routs Gary."

Scores of black papers nationwide, including the Chicago Defender and Pittsburgh Courier, picked up the story on the wire of the Associated Negro Press. The Courier's headline read: "Attucks Captures Indiana Cage Crown."

The night of the victory, as the firetruck left the fieldhouse, white kids joined black kids in cheering the champions. Along the route, white fans turned out to wave and cheer. But, as planned, the parade was quickly diverted to the black part of town.

Change would not be immediate.

The state's desegregation law of 1949 had made it possible, but not mandatory, for black students to attend the high school in their own part of town.

Given the choice, many black students followed tradition and attended Attucks. But others decided to go elsewhere, and once Attucks started winning -- the Tigers went undefeated in winning the state title in 1956 and won it again in '59 -- many schools began to recruit black players.

Bob Collins, after he retired as a columnist for The Star, credited Attucks basketball for giving the very slow process of school integration in Indianapolis a shove.

In the book "Hoosiers," the late sportswriter is quoted: "The success of Attucks basketball integrated the high schools of Indianapolis. They became so dominant that the other schools had to get black basketball players or forget about it.

"(The other schools) went from not caring to crying 'unfair.' They were even saying, this is illegal. They were saying, 'Oscar lives in the Shortridge district and Hallie Bryant should be goin' to Tech.' In 1951, I don't think any other team in Marion County had a black player. By 1955, Shortridge had four black starters."

By 1956, there were 769 black students at Tech and 657 black students at Shortridge. There were very few black students at Howe and Broad Ripple. There would be no white students at Attucks until 1971. But integration was, at last, back on the track it had been on before Attucks was built.

In the late 1960s, just as competitive forces had broken up Attucks' basketball monopoly, the School Board set about breaking up the faculty. To encourage integration, black teachers were transferred to white schools and white teachers to Attucks.

Other doors opened for blacks, and particularly for Attucks students.

Bob Jewell, a basketball star at Attucks in 1951, received his degree at Indiana Central, and in 1957 became the first black to be hired by Eli Lilly and Co. as a scientist. Others soon followed.

Allen Bridgeforth (Attucks '63) attended the University of Louisville until it was necessary for him to return to Indianapolis to get a job.

"I was the second black deliveryman United Parcel had ever hired," he said. "There is no doubt in my mind that the success of our sports teams made a difference in attitude in the city. I think other people started to understand the pride we had in being a graduate of Crispus Attucks."

Andrew W. Ramsey, a prominent columnist at the Indianapolis Recorder, the city's black newspaper, wrote that the importance placed on such basketball games merely highlighted the divide. But in a follow-up column he acknowledged: "It is in sports that democracy has made its longest strides, and democracy appears in athletic contests long before it makes its appearance in other areas of American life."

Said Robertson: "By us winning, it sped up the integration. I truly believe that us winning the state championship brought Indianapolis together."

In 1986, Attucks, the smallest public high school in Indianapolis, with little more than 900 students, was converted to a junior high in IPS' effort to make the best use of its buildings.

The black community, which had opposed creation of the high school in the 1920s, opposed its demise 60 years later. The school had become historic, they argued. It was their history and their school.

Attucks had long since relinquished its basketball dominance. After the incredible run in the 1950s that brought three state championships, the Tigers never returned to the state finals.

Today, Crispus Attucks is a school for grades 6-12, and its history is told by the museum in the old building and the historical marker on the lawn outside. It is told even more plainly by the proud smiles of generations of graduates.

Attucks, Crispus

ATTUCKS, CRISPUS. (1723?–1770). Rebel leader. Massachusetts. Of mixed ancestry, Attucks may have been raised in the Natick Indian town of Mashpee. It is possible that he may have been a slave prior to 1770, by which time he was a free man and a sailor. A leader of the crowd that precipitated the so-called Boston Massacre, 5 March 1770, and the first killed, Attucks became a martyr to freedom in the eyes of most Bostonians and would become a symbol of African American heroism and participation in the Revolutionary struggle.

revised by Michael Bellesiles

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Crispus Attucks

In his seminal book, Why We Can’t Wait, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote about the inspired life of Crispus Attucks, saying, “He is one of the most important figures in African-American history, not for what he did for his own race but for what he did for all oppressed people everywhere. He is a reminder that the African-American heritage is not only African but American and it is a heritage that begins with the beginning of America.”

Attucks was one of the Boston Patriots to die during the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770. Not much is known about Attucks, but most historians agree that he was of mixed blood of African and Native American descent. It appears that Attucks was engaged in the maritime industries of New England and had some experience as a sailor. As tension between Great Britain and her American colonies erupted in 1765 with Parliament’s passing of the Stamp Act, Great Britain felt compelled to send British troops to occupy Boston, the hotbed of colonial resistance. The lone sentry of the Custom House, was attacked by a vociferous mob who threw stones, snowballs, chunks of ice and wood at the sentinel. Fearing for his life, he called for reinforcements from the nearby garrison for assistance. Captain Thomas Preston and seven soldiers joined the sentry at the Custom House. The crowd only grew larger. As the crowd threw chunks of ice and clubs at the soldiers, one found its mark and knocked a British soldier to the ground. He stood back up, yelled and fired his musket into the crowd. Immediately all the other British soldiers opened fire in a ragged volley. Five men immediately fell dead, the first among them was Attucks with two musket balls in his chest. A large funeral was held in Boston and the five victims of the “Boston Massacre” were buried together in a common grave in Boston’s Old Granary Burying Ground.

In the 19th century, Attucks became a symbol of the abolitionist movement and his image and story were seen and told to demonstrate his patriotic virtues. Abolitionists like William C. Nell and Frederick Douglass extolled Crispus Attucks as the first martyr in the cause of American liberty and used his memory to garner support to end slavery in America and attain equal rights for African Americans. In the 20th century Attucks’ continued to be celebrated as a major African American historical figure. Musician Stevie Wonder wrote a song during the American Revolution Bicentennial that mentioned Crispus Attucks and a commemorative postage stamp was also issued in his honor. Though little is known of Crispus Attucks’ life, his death continues to serve as a reminder that African Americans took an active role in the path to American independence.

Watch the video: Indianapolis Crispus Attucks High School Pep Rally and Homecoming Game


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