Monday, February 10, 2020

Black History Month Crispus Attucks

                Crispus Attucks,  A Villain or a Hero?

Little factual information is known about Crispus.  Some historians think one of his forbears was a Native American who was hanged in Boston in 1676. but no one is sure.
 Crispus might have been born in slavery in1723 near Boston, but no one is sure, again.

In 1750 William Brown put a notice in the Boston Gazette promising a 10-pound reward to the person who captured a runaway slave named "Crispas." No one is sure this is the same person.

One of Crispus's descendants says he was good at buying and selling cattle but later spent about twenty years at sea as a sailor.  This is family hearsay.  Are we sure?

No one knows why he was in Boston on the night in March 1770 when the Boston Massacre took place.  Was it by accident?  Did he want to risk his life for a cause of injustice?  Was he an irrational agitator as the defense lawyer for the soldiers suggested.  Once again, no one knows.  

On March 5th, it seems a wigmaker's apprentice accused a British officer of not paying for his new hairpiece.  Another soldier heard the boy and argued with him, and then hit the young man in the head with the butt of his rifle. A crowd of colonists surrounded the soldier, yelling, and waving clubs.  More soldiers arrived.  The mob threw snowballs and rocks.

Crispus Attucks, 6 feet 2 inches tall, was at the front edge of the crowd.  No one is certain why he was there, but he was the first to fall when two bullets hit him in the chest.  The Revolutionary war was still five years in the future, but many consider him its first casualty.

The soldiers were put on trial for murdering Attucks and four other people that night.
Witnesses testified Attucks was carrying a massive club and grabbed a soldier's bayonet before knocking him down.

John Adams (yes, the future president of the United States) defended the soldiers. Adams said Crispus Attucks was a "stout Molatto fellow whose looks were enough to terrify any person and whose mad behavior was chiefly responsible for the dreadful carnage of that night."

Most of the soldiers were released.  Two were convicted of manslaughter, and their thumbs were branded with a hot iron as punishment.

Crispus is buried in the same cemetery as Samuel Adams and Paul Revere.

'Martin Luther King Jr. described Crispus Attucks as 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,' King wrote." 

As with many heroes in our history, there is myth and legend twisted together.   George Washington- chopping down a cherry tree,  Davy Crockett, kilt him a bear when he was only three, and now   Crispus Attucks has joined the illustrious ranks of our heroes.     

History is a wonderment, fascinating, intriguing, and a mystery at times.  I love it.