Crispus Attucks in History and Memory


Check out historian Mitch Kachun‘s post at Age of Revolutions on Crispus Attucks, the African and Native American who died during the so-called Boston Massacre.

A taste:

Because so little could be verified about Attucks’s life, both white and black commentators constructed the Crispus Attucks that suited their respective agendas. Between the 1880s and 1950s, most whites tended either to ignore Attucks or vilify him, echoing John Adams’s characterization of Attucks as an unsavory firebrand of disorder. African-Americans continued to commemorate him, fabricating a set of convenient fictions that highlighted his patriotism and burning desire for freedom.  At times whites and blacks came together to laud Attucks, as when a monument was erected in Boston in 1888  and when Massachusetts designated March 5 as Crispus Attucks Day, an official state holiday, in 1932.  But more often Attucks’s memory was segregated.  He virtually disappeared from mainstream History textbooks between the 1880s and 1960s, while a series of black writers constructed an idealized Attucks: he was literate and well versed in political philosophy; a lover of universal freedom; an intimate confidante of Boston’s Sons of Liberty; an inspirational public speaker at anti-British rallies; a daring and selfless patriot who sacrificed his life to build a new nation promising liberty for all.  There is no evidence for any of these assertions.

Read the entire piece here.