In the years since his death, Attucks’s legacy has continued to endure, first with the American colonists eager to break from British rule, and later among 19th century abolitionists and 20th century civil rights activists. In his 1964 book, Why We Can’t Wait, Dr.Martin Luther King Jr. lauded Attucks for his moral courage and his defining role in American history.
Crispus Attucks was an African-American man killed during the Boston Massacre, making him the first casualty of the American Revolution. Crispus Attucks is believed to have been born around 1723, in Framingham, Massachusetts. His father was likely a slave and his mother a Natick Indian. A 1750 ad in the Boston Gazette sought the recovery of a runaway slave named “Crispas,” but all that is definitely known about Attucks is that he was the first to fall during the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770. In 1888, the Crispus Attucks monument was unveiled in Boston Common. Born into slavery, Crispus Attucks was the son of Prince Yonger, a slave shipped to America from Africa, and Nancy Attucks, a Natick Indian.
Little is known about Attucks’ life, or his family, who resided in Framingham, Massachusetts, just outside Boston. What has been pieced together paints a picture of a young man who showed an early skill for buying and trading goods. He seemed unafraid of the consequences for escaping the bonds of slavery. Historians have, in fact, pinpointed Attucks as the focus of an advertisement in a 1750 edition of the Boston Gazette in which a white landowner offered to pay 10 pounds for the return of a young runaway slave.
Even so, Attucks became a martyr. His body was transported to Faneuil Hall, where he and the others killed in the attack lay in state. City leaders even waived the laws around black burials and permitted Attucks to be buried with the others at the Park Street cemetery.