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.
More in this Section
- Fighting for ChangeGenerations of Americans called on the memory of Attucks in their own struggles for freedom and equality.Read more →
- Fighting for IndependenceAttucks’s death at the Boston Massacre became a rallying point on the road to Revolution.Read more →
- Fighting for FreedomPresented as the first martyr of the Revolution, Attucks’s legacy is revived to serve the cause of abolition.Read more →
- Fighting for A Place in the CityAs Black communities faced new threats and challenges following the Civil War, Black Bostonians took up the cause of creating a monument to secure Attucks’s legacy.Read more →
- Fighting for EqualityA new generation of activists invokes Attucks’s story to challenge white supremacists at the turn of the 20th century.Read more →
- Fighting for EquityIn Boston, Attucks’s legacy became a powerful tool for Black leaders facing white backlash against desegregation.Read more →
- Video | Liberty & Sovereignty in 18th Century New EnglandExamining the political conversations that were taking place around the time of the Boston Massacre among white colonists and the African- and Native-descended communities.Read more →
- VIDEO | Demanding Freedom: Attucks and the Abolition Movement19th presented Attucks as the first martyr of the Revolution who died fighting for liberty, an image that resonated powerfully with those seeking emancipation for African Americans.Read more →
- VIDEO | Monumental AttucksNOV 10: African American leaders in late 19th century Boston fought to create a lasting monument to Crispus Attucks on Boston Common.Read more →
- VIDEO | Attucks and the Birth of a NationJAN 27: How William Monroe Trotter, a prominent Black Boston activist, protested the white nationalist film by invoking the memory of Crispus Attucks.Read more →
- VIDEO | Grief, Remembrance, JusticeAn exploration of how our memories of the legendary Boston activist Melnea Cass can help us channel grief into a call for lasting change.Read more →