Fighting for Change


After his death, Americans seeking to create social change turned Crispus Attucks into a legend. They remembered him as a martyr, leader, and courageous fighter who helped spark the Revolution.

During the Revolution, Attucks and the other Massacre victims were used to foster opposition to British rule and boost support for American independence. Decades later, activists used the memory of Attucks’s sacrifice to call for freedom, equality, and equity for African Americans. When liberties stood at risk, the figure of Attucks reminded people that they were called to finish the work of the Revolution, even when they were threatened by very real physical dangers.

Attucks as a legend also inspired many critics. Whites sometimes painted him as the leader of a violent mob that did not deserve praise. Blacks sometimes disowned Attucks because he fought to create a white government that denied citizenship rights to people of color.

Whether or not he is celebrated, the presence of Attucks on King Street in 1770 reminds us that black and Native people were present from the beginning of America, and a presence that shapes our lives today.

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