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The Bravery of the First Black Man Killed in the American Revolution

Crispus Attucks has inspired generations.

By Sam H ArnoldPublished 3 months ago 3 min read

Crispus Attucks is a name synonymous with the American revolution. He is largely considered the first black man to be killed in the fight against the British. Research shows that Attucks could have been multiracial, his courage earning him a place in history.

Later his name would become a symbol of the African American struggle for freedom and equality; he is also widely celebrated through memorials and days dedicated to his memory.

Surprisingly though, little is known about his life and the facts we can find come from the transcribed court case from those that murdered him

Who was Crispus Attucks

Attucks was born in Framingham, Massachusetts, in approximately 1723. His father was an enslaved African, and his mother was a Native American. Some researchers claim he is a distant relative of John Attucks, who was hanged for treason during King Phillip's war, although this has never been conclusively proven.

The family lived in a cellar before Attucks was taken into slavery. He was enslaved by a man named William Browne. At the age of twenty-seven, he ran away from Browne, and despite a substantial reward placed on his head, he evaded capture.

Using the alias of Michael Johnson, he became a seaman working on a whaling boat. When he was not at sea, he sold ropes that he made. Unfortunately, it was during one of these shore leaves that he was killed.

The Boston Massacre

The people of Boston were fed up with paying huge taxes to the British, with no representation in parliament. So troops were sent to the city to calm the locals.

On 5th March 1770, Attucks and a friend were drinking in a local pub when a British soldier came looking for work. It was not unusual for soldiers to seek additional money as all of them were extremely poorly paid.

Attucks and his companion harassed the soldier until he left. Whilst this was happening, a small group of protestors gathered outside Custom House to protest their treatment. Attucks left the pub and joined the crowd, a courageous decision as had he been arrested; he would have been sent back to slavery.

Fearing things could turn nasty, the soldier called for reinforcements, and eight soldiers were dispatched to secure Custom House. Objects started to be thrown at the soldiers, snowballs and lumps of wood were mentioned by witnesses. With this, the soldiers opened fire.

Attucks at the front of the group was the first to be hit; he was shot twice in the chest, the second shot being fatal; he was forty-seven. By the end of the shooting, five colonists were dead and six wounded.


The soldiers' conduct did not initially go unpunished. They were arrested and taken to trial. John Adams acted in defence of the soldiers. He justified the shooting of Attucks, saying that the above-average size and height of the man had scared the soldiers into firing.

The defence was successful, and the Jury acquitted all the soldiers of murder; they did, however, charge two of them with manslaughter, Matthew Kilroy and Hugh Mongomery. The two men were given the punishment of having their hands branded and were then released with no further charge.

A Lasting Legacy

In death, Attucks received the attention his heroic act deserved. He received honorary awards that no person of colour had previously received.

First, he lay in state for three days, his funeral was a public affair, and his funeral procession went through the city. It is believed that between ten and twelve thousand attended his funeral.

News of the massacre spread fast throughout America, which was instrumental in starting the American revolution. Since his death, Attucks has had parks and schools named after him. A commemorative coin has also been made in his honour.

Know that the first American to shed blood in the revolution that freed his country from British oppression was a Black seaman named Crispus Attucks - Martin Luther King Jnr

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About the Creator

Sam H Arnold

Productivity hacks, writing tips and other stories about your writing hustle. My life as a full-time parent, teacher and part-time writer.

For more of my crime article then join my True Crime magazine at

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