Crispus Attucks By Jane Runyon

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Crispus Attucks
By Jane Runyon


1     The very first man killed in the American Revolution was a black man named Crispus Attucks. There are a lot of questions about how he became the first victim. Let's see if the facts lead us to a conclusion about the event.
2     It is believed by many historians that Crispus Attucks was the son of an African brought to America to be a slave. His mother is thought to be a Nantucket Indian. As the son of a slave, he was also considered to be a slave by his owner. He became skilled at buying and selling cattle. In 1750, he escaped his owner and tried to make a free life for himself. A wanted poster found in Boston described Attucks as being 6 feet 2 inches tall with short curly hair and knees that were too close together. He was able to avoid capture and worked at many jobs to support himself. Most of his time, he worked as a sailor on ships that fished for whales. Some of the time, he made ropes in Boston. He came to dislike the British because they were a threat to him while he worked either job. As a sailor, he could be pressed into service with the British navy. He had trouble finding a job making ropes because the men of the British Army were willing to do jobs like this for less money.
3     On the night of March 2, 1770, several angry sailors, including Attucks, met at a local public house to discuss their problems with the British. A British soldier came into the pub at this time looking for work. There were about 30 angry colonists by this time. They took this opportunity to yell insulting things at the soldier. The soldier left the pub and headed back towards his own camp, followed by the jeering crowd. The mob threw everything from sticks, to snowballs, to insults at the soldier. He called for help and was joined by seven of his fellow soldiers. The real story gets a little fuzzy at this point. Did the soldiers fire at the mob without reason? Did the mob threaten the soldiers enough that they fired their guns? Was it all just an accident? No one knows for sure. We do know that shots were fired, and the first man to die was Crispus Attucks. In all, five men died that night, all colonists. None of them had guns.
4     The soldiers were brought to trial on murder charges. John Adams was able to argue that they used their guns in self defense. He convinced the jury that the soldiers feared for their lives in the face of an angry mob. This did not make many of the citizens of Boston happy. They printed stories about the massacre of innocent people. They made heroes of the fallen colonists. The citizens of Boston held celebrations each March 2 to remember the terrible day. Nearly 100 years later, people against slavery in the United States declared a "Crispus Attucks Day" to honor the man they considered a hero of American freedom. Was he a hero? You can decide that for yourself.

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