Crispus Attucks – “The first to defy, the first to die”
The Poem by Irish Poet John Boyle O’Reilly
Picture credit: Public Domain
Crispus Attucks was the first to die, along with four others, in the Boston Massacre of 1770, which became the impetus for the American Revolutionary War.
He was born in 1723 in Framingham, Massachusetts and died on March 5, 1770 in Boston.
Although he was born a slave, he later escaped, and as a runaway slave he would become a whaler for many years, as well as a rope maker.
Standing at 6′ 2 “, Crispus was strong and muscular and a good fit to become a whaler.
His father was Prince Yonger, who was born in Africa and later brought to America as a slave.
His mother Nancy Attucks, was a Natick Indian from Massachusetts, who was also forced into slavery, she was descended from John Attucks, of Massachusetts, who was hanged during King Philip’s War.
Crispus had a sister named Phebe and perhaps also a brother.
This was all happening at the beginning of the American Revolutionary War.
” 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.” from African-American Registry
On that eventful day in March of 1770, Attucks was at the front of a large group of Rebels, which resulted in a confrontation with British troops, that ended with him being killed along with four others.
John Adams, who would later become our second President, would defend the soldiers who killed him, they were acquitted. This event would later be called the Boston Massacre by John’s cousin Samuel Adams.
This popular phrase was often heard after the trial, “Even a Red Coat can get a fair trial”
Attucks is buried in the Granary Burial Ground in Boston, a precedent set by him being buried with white men.
A Monument to Honor him, was erected in 1888 and stands in the Boston Common.
My vague connection to this man is:
After leaving LA and going to Connecticut to Walkingfox’s home to begin a new life, I found that he already had a wide circle of friends, from every state and every Nation in New England and these places, these names, these people, would all soon become quite familiar and important to me.
We have been to every state in New England as Walkingfox attempted to teach me about his people and their History, one of those trips was to Plymouth for the Annual day of Mourning or as it is known in the non Native world, Thanksgiving.
We made two trips up to Plymouth for this event, before moving south to Florida. These were wonderful chances to be with others who also came to remember the History of this place. Warm people, warm memories.
Left, Walkingfox at Plymouth Rock Monument and Right, Wampanoag Moonanum James of UAINE
On that emotional day, we stood with others at the place where many captured Native prisoners had been executed and their heads hung on posts, in the center of the town. It was a very somber, sad day for all who stood in the frigid cold and prayed for those who had died there so long ago during the King Philip’s War.
Left, Firewoman was a Wampanoag and Right, Renato is Natick, both were very dear to us.
We have friends of the Natick and Wampanoag Nations that are referred to in this story
about Crispus Attucks, so as you can see, telling it and sharing it is all quite personal.
*One other personal footnote:
When I attended Shortridge High School in Indianapolis, our long time, biggest rival in Basketball, was always Attucks High School, an all African-American school known for having the best players in our state and they nearly always beat us and made the state finals.*
These are some excellent places to learn more about this most special man: