Crispus Attucks: First Casualty of the Revolutionary War

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Crispus Attucks became the first casualty of the Revolutionary War in 1770 at the Boston Massacre. He was an escaped slave or free black man—it’s not entirely clear.

We do know that William Brown placed an advertisement offering a reward for "A Mulatto fellow, about 27 Years of Age, named Crispus, 6 feet 2 inches high, short cur'l hair, his knees nearer together than common."  

Attucks worked as a sailor on a whaling vessel, and as a ropemaker while in port. It is the ropemaking which may have indirectly led to his death, since there were hard feeling among the British and American sailors.

What sort of hard feelings, you may ask?

Impressment: the British practice of "pressing" or kidnapping men and forcing them to ‘work’ on a British Navy vessel. Attacks had already escaped slavery once, so this practice was a real threat to his conditional freedom and helps explain why he was present at the demonstration against the British occupation on March 5, 1770.

Ropemaking: British sailors were willing to accept lower wages for ropemaking jobs because they had steady income from their enlistment. Attacks was not only discriminated against because of his race, but because he wouldn’t work for poor wages.

By the way, the penalty imposed upon the British soldiers for their complicity for killing Crispus Attuck and 4 others: the branding of an "M" on their thumbs so they couldn’t use the ‘benefit of the clergy’ defense again, whereby a charge of murder is reduced to manslaughter by proving enough literacy to be able to read from the Bible. 

A research grant to study slavery and the Underground Railroad in Kentucky  inspired, "A Promise Moon." I alluded to, or drew inspiration from my findings as I wrote my latest novel which is set during the Civil War.


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