Black Killed in Boston Massacre - History

Black Killed in Boston Massacre - History

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On March 5, 1770, Crispus Attucks, an escaped slave, died with four other Americans in the Boston Massacre.

Boston Massacre

The Boston Massacre was a confrontation on March 5, 1770, in which British soldiers shot and killed several people while being harassed by a mob in Boston. [1] The event was heavily publicized by leading Patriots such as Paul Revere and Samuel Adams. [2] [3] [4] British troops had been stationed in the Province of Massachusetts Bay since 1768 in order to support crown-appointed officials and to enforce unpopular Parliamentary legislation.

Amid tense relations between the civilians and the soldiers, a mob formed around a British sentry and verbally abused him. He was eventually supported by seven additional soldiers, led by Captain Thomas Preston, who were hit by clubs, stones, and snowballs. Eventually, one soldier fired, prompting the others to fire without an order by Preston. The gunfire instantly killed three people and wounded eight others, two of whom later died of their wounds. [5]

The crowd eventually dispersed after Acting Governor Thomas Hutchinson promised an inquiry, but they re-formed the next day, prompting the withdrawal of the troops to Castle Island. Eight soldiers, one officer, and four civilians were arrested and charged with murder, and they were defended by future U.S. President John Adams. Six of the soldiers were acquitted the other two were convicted of manslaughter and given reduced sentences. The two found guilty of manslaughter were sentenced to branding on their hand.

Depictions, reports, and propaganda about the event heightened tensions throughout the Thirteen Colonies, notably the colored engraving produced by Paul Revere.

9e. The Boston Massacre

Crispus Attucks was not only the first African American to die for the revolution, he was one of the first patriots to give his life for the cause.

American blood was shed on American soil.

The showdown between the British and the Americans was not simply a war of words. Blood was shed over this clash of ideals. Although large-scale fighting between American minutemen and the British redcoats did not begin until 1775, the 1770 Boston Massacre gave each side a taste of what was to come.

No colony was thrilled with the Townshend duties, but nowhere was there greater resentment than in Boston. British officials in Boston feared for their lives. When attempts were made to seize two of John Hancock's trading vessels, Boston was ready to riot. Lord Hillsborough , Parliament's minister on American affairs, finally ordered four regiments to be moved to Boston.

The British Make the Americans Skittish

Samuel Adams and James Otis did not take this lightly. Less than three weeks prior to the arrival of British troops, Bostonians defiantly, but nervously, assembled in Faneuil Hall . But when the redcoats marched boldly through the town streets on October 1, the only resistance seen was on the facial expressions of the townspeople. The people of Boston had decided to show restraint.

The other 12 colonies watched the Boston proceedings with great interest. Perhaps their fears about British tyranny were true. Moderates found it difficult to argue that the Crown was not interested in stripping away American civil liberties by having a standing army stationed in Boston. Throughout the occupation, sentiment shifted further and further away from the London government.

The Massacre

On March 5, 1770, the inevitable happened. A mob of about 60 angry townspeople descended upon the guard at the Customs House . When reinforcements were called, the crowd became more unruly, hurling rocks and snowballs at the guard and reinforcements.

In the heat of the confusing melee, the British fired without Captain Thomas Preston 's command. Imperial bullets took the lives of five men, including Crispus Attucks, a former slave. Others were injured.

Anonymous Account of the Boston Massacre, 1770

This party in proceeding from Exchange lane into King street, must pass the sentry posted at the westerly corner of the Custom House, which butts on that lane and fronts on that street. This is needful to be mentioned, as near that spot and in that street the bloody tragedy was acted, and the street actors in it were stationed: their station being but a few feet from the front side of the said Custom House. The outrageous behavior and the threats of the said party occasioned the ringing of the meeting-house bell near the head of King street, which bell ringing quick, as for fire, it presently brought out a number of inhabitants, who being soon sensible of the occasion of it, were naturally led to King street, where the said party had made a stop but a little while before, and where their stopping had drawn together a number of boys, round the sentry at the Custom House. whether the boys mistook the sentry for one of the said party, and thence took occasion to differ with him, or whether he first affronted them, which is affirmed in several depositions,-however that may be, there was much foul language between them, and some of them, in consequence of his pushing at them with his bayonet, threw snowballs at him, which occasioned him to knock hastily at the door of the Custom House. From hence two persons thereupon proceeded immediately to the main-guard, which was posted opposite to the State House, at a small distance, near the head of the said street. The officer on guard was Capt. Preston, who with seven or eight soldiers, with fire-arms and charged bayonets, issued from the guardhouse, and in great haste posted himself and his soldiers in front of the Custom House, near the corner aforesaid.

&ndash Anonymous, "An Account of the Boston Massacre," (1770)

Trial and Error

Captain Preston and four of his men were cleared of all charges in the trial that followed. Two others were convicted of manslaughter, but were sentenced to a mere branding of the thumb. The lawyer who represented the British soldiers was none other than patriot John Adams.

At the same time Preston's men drew blood in Boston, the Parliament in London decided once again to concede on the issue of taxation. All the Townshend duties were repealed save one, the tax on tea. It proved to another error in judgment on the part of the British.

The Massachusetts legislature was reconvened. Despite calls by some to continue the tea boycott until all taxes were repealed, most American colonists resumed importation.

The events in Boston from 1768 through 1770 were not soon forgotten. Legal squabbles were one thing, but bloodshed was another. Despite the verdict of the soldiers' trial, Americans did not forget the lesson they had learned from this experience.

What was the lesson? Americans learned that the British would use force when necessary to keep the Americans obedient.

THE FATAL FIFTH OF MARCH, 1770, CAN NEVER BE FORGOTTEN. The horrors of THAT DREADFUL NIGHT are but too deeply impressed on our hearts. Language is too feeble to paint the emotions of our souls, when our streets were stained with the BLOOD OF OUR BRETHERN when our ears were wounded by the groans of the dying, and our eyes were tormented with the sight of the mangled bodies of the dead. When our alarmed imagination presented to our view our houses wrapt in flames, our children subjected to the barbarous caprice of the raging soldiery our beauteous virgins exposed to all the insolence of unbridled passion our virtuous wives, endeared to us by every tender tie, falling a sacrifice to worse than brutal violence, and perhaps, like the famed Lucretia, distracted with anguish and despair, ending their wretched lives by their own fair hands.

&ndash Dr. Joseph Warren, "Oration commemorating the anniversary of the Boston Massacre," (March 5, 1772)

The flames were fanned even more when the eight soldiers involved in the incident and their captain Thomas Preston, who was tried separately from his men, were acquitted on the grounds of self-defense. John Adams, who went on to become the second U.S. president, defended the soldiers in court. During the trial, Adams labeled the colonists as an unruly mob that forced his clients to open fire.

Adams charged that Attucks helped lead the attack, however, debate has raged over how involved he actually was in the fight. Future Founding Father Samuel Adams claimed Attucks was simply "leaning on a stick" when the gunshots erupted.

Crispus Attucks Needs No Introduction. Or Does He?

The African American Patriot, who died in the Boston Massacre, was erased from visual history. Black abolitionists revived his memory.

In a melee on March 5, 1770, later called the Boston Massacre, British soldiers killed five Patriots. One was a man named Crispus Attucks, whom many consider the first casualty of the American Revolution. It’s now believed that Attucks was of African and Native American ancestry, and probably freed himself from slavery in Framingham, Massachusetts, around 1750. In the years after his self-emancipation, Attucks worked on the docks and whaling ships.

The future president John Adams, in defending the Redcoats in court, called the Bostonians involved “a motley rabble of saucy boys, negros and molattoes, Irish teagues and outlandish Jack Tars.” Attucks was the ringleader of the mob, Adams said the dockworker apparently fit several of those disparaging categories.

Weekly Newsletter

American studies scholar Karsten Fitz traces Attucks’s posthumous career in images of the Boston Massacre. None other than Paul Revere engraved the first widely circulated picture of the event, The Bloody Massacre, perpetrated in King-Street, Boston, on March 5th, 1770, published three weeks after the skirmish (featured image, above). Fitz calls this famous image “one of the most striking distortions in the record of the visual narratives of the American Revolution.”

Revere’s engraving should not be taken so much as historical record as propaganda for the Patriot cause, writes Fitz: Revere portrays Redcoats firing on gentlemen Patriots at point-blank range. (In reality, the Bostonians were armed, albeit with sticks, rocks, and snowballs, and by all accounts were moving aggressively toward the soldiers.) Depending on the version of the print, a head in the lower left may be Crispus Attucks. But in many existing copies, this figure isn’t portrayed as African American. Nonetheless, this is the image that has “become part of the storehouse of American cultural memory.”

Subsequent “visual narratives” also erased the participation of African Americans like Attucks from the Revolution. Fitz suggests that white Americans preferred images like this, so as not to connect “their national formative events . . . with the system of slavery[.]” A whitewashed Boston Massacre would “hide” slavery “from their commemoration of the founding of the nation.”

Figure 1: Crispus Attucks, the First Martyr of the American Revolution by William C. Nell via NYPL

Fitz argues that this iconic “mother image” was the beginning of a process: “the erasure, the marginalization, and the re-emergence of the black presence” in representations of the Revolution. Indeed, it took eighty-five years for Attucks to be portrayed as the leader of the Bostonians, as Adams said he was. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a black abolitionist was the first to do it: in 1855, William C. Nell presented “Crispus Attucks, the First Martyr of the American Revolution” in his The Coloured Patriots of the American Revolution (fig. 1). Nell places the dying Attucks front and center, being held in the arms of a white compatriot in the manner of popular “dying general” paintings of the day.

Figure 2: Boston Massacre by William L. Champney via Wikimedia Commons

William L. Champney (“of whom next to nothing is known,” according to Fitz) also centered Attucks in his 1856 print “Boston Massacre” (fig. 2). But neither Nell’s nor Champney’s works had anywhere near the distribution of Alonzo Chappel’s “Boston Massacre” (1857, fig. 3), which reverted back to the Revere style: there is a black man in the crowd, but he’s obscured, not the leader, nor the first martyr.

Figure 3: Boston Massacre by Alonzo Chappel via Wikimedia Commons

“American art in the middle decades of the nineteenth century was consciously designed to influence and elevate the national character,” writes Fitz. Images of the massacre in the 1850s were conflicted about Attucks, who became a symbol for the abolitionist movement. There was, after all, no better representative of freedom than a former slave who died for the cause.

The Boston Massacre

The Boston Massacre marked the moment when political tensions between British soldiers and American colonists turned deadly. Patriots argued the event was the massacre of civilians perpetrated by the British Army, while loyalists argued that it was an unfortunate accident, the result of self-defense of the British soldiers from a threatening and dangerous mob. Regardless of what actually happened, the event fanned the flames of political discord and ignited a series of events that would eventually lead to American independence. John Adams believed that “on that night, the foundation of American independence was laid.”

Following the end of the French and Indian War, Great Britain began to levy taxes on her colonies to defray the cost of the expensive war. However, colonies who had been in charge of taxing themselves began to openly resist Great Britain. Decades of self-rule and benign neglect had many colonists feeling their liberty was being stripped away by their mother country. Boston was the home to some of the most radical opponents and largest protests. In an attempt to use an excessive amount of force to crack down on these upstart colonials, Great Britain passed the Townshend Acts in 1767 and dispatched the British Army to restore order in Boston. On October 1, 1768, the British fleet arrived, and hundreds of British soldiers marched into the hostile city.

British Grenadier of the 40th Regiment of Foot in 1767

Rather than restore order, this maneuver proved to only worsen relations between the British and Americans. The presence of British regular troops in the streets of Boston enraged colonists, who now felt they were being occupied by a foreign army. British soldiers faced numerous insults and taunting as they patrolled the streets. The verbal abuse soon became physical as fights between civilians and British soldiers became common in the streets of Boston. Angry mobs would frequently protest British soldiers or American loyalists who supported the British policies. In February of 1770, Christopher Seider, an 11-year-old boy, was killed while protesting with a group in front of the home of a loyalist. Thousands of Bostonians turned out for the boy’s funeral and the tension and distrust between the civilians and the British grew larger.

It was just eleven days after Seider’s death, on March 5, 1770, when Private Hugh White of the 29 th Regiment of Foot took up a sentry post outside of the Customs House on King Street. The Customs House had taken on symbolic meaning as the center of British taxation. As a young wigmaker’s apprentice, Edward Garrick, passed the sentry, he yelled at a British officer that he had not paid his bill for a wig. The sentry, White, reprimanded the young man. The two engaged in a heated conversation when Private White swung his musket at Garrick, hitting him on the side of the head.

Word traveled through the streets about the altercation and a large mob began to descend on the lone British sentry at the Custom House. As the mob of people began to grow larger and larger, the sentry called for reinforcements. Seven British soldiers of the 29 th Regiment of Foot, under the command of Captain Thomas Preston, marched to the sentry’s defense with fixed bayonets. As the nine British soldiers stood guard near the steps to the Custom House, passions enflamed and dozens of more people joined the crowd surrounding the soldiers. Bells began ringing in the city and more people came out of their homes and into the streets. The crowd was estimated to have grown to as many as 300 or 400 people. They were yelling at the soldiers, shouting profanities and insults at the soldiers. Others threw rocks, paddles, and snowballs at the besieged men. One of those protestors near the soldiers was a former slave named Crispus Attucks. The crowd continued to hurl verbal abuse and challenged the soldiers repeatedly to fire their weapons. Preston’s men loaded their muskets in front of the crowd.

The crowd became angrier and angrier. At one point a club or stick was thrown at the soldiers and struck one of the British soldiers. The soldier fell to the ground. He stood back up and yelled, “Damn you, fire!” and fired his musket into the crowd. The musket ball struck Attucks who fell dead to the ground. A few seconds later, the other British soldiers fired into the crowd. Eleven people were hit, five men were killed and six were wounded. After the smoke cleared, Preston ordered his men to cease fire and called out dozens of soldiers to defend the Custom House.

Most of the crowd of civilians left the area immediately around the soldiers as others ran to help the wounded. American blood had been spilled at the hands of British soldiers for the first time. Royal governor Thomas Hutchison arrived on the scene and calmed the anxious and angry colonists and promised justice for what had just occurred. The next day Preston and the eight soldiers involved were arrested and sent to trial for murder.

Henry Pelham’s (Left) 1770 engraving of The Fruits of Arbitrary Power, or The Bloody Massacre. Paul Revere’s (Right) copy colored by Christian Remick and printed by Benjamin Edes.

Following the event, patriot Paul Revere made an engraving based on an illustration by Henry Pelham of the event and labeled it with the provocative title: “The Bloody Massacre.” The image depicted a line of British soldiers firing in unison on an unarmed crowd in front of the State House. This incendiary image outraged many colonists as the event soon became known as a massacre. Broadsides depicting black coffins for the men killed in the incident appeared in newspapers. The funerals for these victims became large public events where patriots displayed their anger at the occupying soldiers.

As public sentiment against the British soldiers grew, Massachusetts placed the soldiers on trial for murder. It became very difficult to find someone who would be willing to publicly defend the British soldiers. Then patriot John Adams agreed to defend them. Despite the public backlash to his defense of the British soldiers, Adams believed it was important to show the British that a fair trial could be held in the colony of Massachusetts, despite the inflamed passions. After a heated trial, Adams was ultimately victorious in showing the British soldiers were not at fault and had acted in self-defense. Six soldiers were found not guilty and two were found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

The Boston Massacre was one of the most important events leading up to the Revolutionary War. The tragic event was commemorated annually in Boston with orations that further fueled negative views of the British soldiers living amongst them. With the large amounts of distrust between the colonists and British soldiers, Massachusetts citizens would need to look to their own defense against possible aggression by the British Army. The two would finally clash five years after the event at Lexington and Concord outside Boston. Almost 50 years after the fact, John Adams described the importance of these events: “How slightly however, historians, may have passed over this event, the blood of the Martyrs, right, or wrong, proved to be the seeds of the Congregation. Not the Battle of Lexington or Bunkers Hill not the surrender of Burgoyne, or Cornwallis, were more important events in American history than the battle of King Street, on the 5th of March 1770.”

5 Massacres Where Almost Nobody Died

Massacre. The very word is chilling. For many, it immediately brings to mind hundreds or even thousands of innocent people savagely slain. With good reason. In the 1937 Nanking Massacre, for example, at least 300,000 people were brutally killed by Japanese troops [source: Nanking Massacre]. In the ancient Massacre of the Latins of 1182, Constantinople's Eastern Orthodox citizens murdered or drove out some 60,000 of the city's Roman Catholic citizens, who controlled Constantinople's maritime trade and financial sector [source: Pegg]. Yet interestingly, despite our common collective image of what a massacre is, the definition of the word is actually a bit vague. Merriam-Webster dictionary states that it's the act of killing "a number" of helpless people via atrocious means, and that the origin of the word is unknown.

Since no specific number of deaths is required to consider a group-killing a massacre, it's up to us to decide what is and isn't. Sometimes we've decided based on the number of dead, other times on the sheer brutality involved. If you pore through the annals of history, you'll find massacres of five, 25, 500, and well over 100,000. Here are five of the (thankfully) smallest massacres that have occurred.

5: Whitman Mission Massacre

In 1836, Presbyterian missionaries Marcus and Narcissa Whitman established a mission to the Cayuse Indians at Waiilatpu in Oregon's Walla Walla Valley. Although the couple worked diligently to assist the Cayuse, constructing buildings, teaching their children and doctoring their sick, the Indians never took to the couple's outreach. Part of the reason was the Whitmans' lack of accommodating Cayuse customs and beliefs. For example, when the Cayuse wanted to hold a service in the Whitman home, as opposed to a church -- something appropriate in their culture -- Narcissa Whitman refused [source: PBS].

By 1842, church elders wanted to close the mission. Marcus Whitman traveled back East and persuaded them to give him more time. On his return, he hooked up with a wagon train of 1,000 pioneers, leading them to Waiilatpu to settle. The Cayuse became disgruntled that so many white people flooded their lands, and that the Whitmans had turned their attention to the new settlers. Then in 1847, disaster struck. A measles epidemic hit, killing half the Cayuse, including nearly all of their children -- yet most of the whites survived. Though the Whitmans attended to both groups, it seemed to the Cayuse that the couple was only curing the white people. Enraged, several Cayuse banded together and slayed 14 settlers, including the Whitmans. Several of those involved in the killings were later hanged. A few years later, the Cayuse, decimated in numbers, were absorbed by other tribes, ending their independent existence [source: PBS]. A terrible ending for everyone.

The Frog Lake Massacre in Canada's Northwest Territories (today's Alberta) ironically led to the largest mass execution in the country's history. The year was 1885 and the Plains Cree, like other Indians in the country, were starving following the buffalo's near-extinction. The white people ruling the country kept breaking the treaties they'd made with the Indians, further worsening their living conditions. A band of angry Cree warriors raided a store at the Frog Lake Settlement, searching for food. They also took some of the villagers as prisoners, including Thomas Quinn, an Indian agent who had repeatedly treated the Cree harshly. Quinn was ordered to move to a nearby Cree encampment but refused, so one of the Indians shot him in the head. In the chaos that ensued, eight more settlers were killed, including two Catholic priests. Seventy settlers were then taken captive [source: Chaput].

Six Cree were later hanged at Fort Battleford for their part in the Frog Lake Massacre, along with two other Cree found guilty of an earlier murder. The hangings were the largest group execution in Canadian history [source: Chaput].

The Boston Massacre is seen as such a pivotal point in American history, it's re-enacted every year on the massacre site -- the front lawn of Boston's Old State House. The scuffle occurred on March 5, 1770, when the American colonists were still under British rule and angry about the imposition of new taxes. The colonists were heckling a British sentry that day, so a squad of British soldiers came to his assistance. But instead of calmly dispersing the crowd, the soldiers fired into it, killing three immediately. Two later died of their wounds.

While not an especially brutal killing, nor one that took many lives, leaders of the rebellion quickly dubbed it a massacre. Patriot and silversmith Paul Revere created an engraving about it, which was widely distributed. The colonists were so enraged by the killings, they threatened retaliation. The British officer in charge, Capt. Thomas Preston, was arrested along with eight of his men all were charged with manslaughter. Interestingly, although tried in a colonial court, Preston and six of his men were acquitted the two who were found guilty of manslaughter simply received a brand on the hand. The incident resulted in the removal of British troops from Boston. It also helped draw many colonists to the Patriot cause, thanks to the "massacre" label, which made the killings seem planned [source: History].

2: St. George's Fields Massacre

This incident in London was a bit intertwined with the Boston Massacre. In 1768, two years before the Boston slayings, John Wilkes sat in London's King's Bench Prison, convicted of libeling King George III. Wilkes was a radical member of the House of Commons, and had written an article critical of the king that was published in Wilkes' newspaper, The North Briton, in 1763. Some 15,000 citizens, irate over Wilkes' arrest, gathered outside the jail in protest, angrily chanting, "Damn the King! Damn the Government! Damn the Justices!" and, "No liberty, no king!" [source: Simkin]. Fearing the protesters would attempt to storm the jail and rescue Wilkes, government troops fired into the crowd. Six people were killed plus one bystander, who soldiers pursued, cornered and shot, thinking he was one of the protesters [source: Buescher].

The horrifying event became known as the St. George's Fields Massacre, named for the section in London where it occurred. Afterward, riots erupted all over the city. Wilkes wrote to Boston's Sons of Liberty from jail, concerning the "horrid Massacre." He noted it was possible the government actually planned the massacre in advance. A British chaplain also railed against the murders from the pulpit his sermon was printed and widely distributed in the American colonies. Two years later, when the Boston Massacre occurred, the colonists wondered if it too had been a government plot. Bostonians may have decided to use the term "Boston Massacre" to echo the St George's Fields Massacre [source: Buescher].

1: St. Valentine's Day Massacre

In the 1920s, rival gangs battled for turf in Chicago. Their main operations: bootlegging, gambling and prostitution. Soon it was down to two groups: one led by Al Capone, the other by Irish gangster George "Bugs" Moran, a longtime foe of Capone's. The city of Chicago was shocked at what happened next. On the morning of Feb. 14, 1929, seven men associated with Moran were gunned down on the North Side as they faced a garage wall [source: History].

Two of the men who shot Moran's guys were dressed in police attire, so the assumption was that the "officers" were Capone's men, who fooled Moran's gang into thinking they were merely being raided -- hence their polite cooperation in turning and facing the wall [source: O'Brien]. Yet no one was ever able to link Capone to the murders, so no one was charged. But this victory wasn't the turning point that Capone envisioned. While the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, as it was dubbed, did put Moran out of business and enable Capone to take over the city, the brutal slayings had so enraged Chicagoans that the authorities bore down on Capone. They eventually jailed him for tax fraud, ending his reign of terror [source: History].

Author's Note: 5 Massacres Where Almost Nobody Died

I never pondered the finer points of the meaning of the word "massacre" before researching this piece. In some ways it seems disrespectful to seemingly compare the deaths of five to that of 50,000 or 100,000 by using the same word to describe it. On the other hand, brutally killing a group of people is always horrific, no matter the group's size.

The Boston Massacre Victims

After five people were shot dead by British soldiers during the Boston Massacre in 1770, many patriot leaders used the tragedy to stir up hostility against the British government.

Samuel Adams tugged at the heart strings of the public by holding a public funeral for the five victims and portrayed them as martyrs of a brutal regime before burying them in Granary Burying Ground and erecting a marker “as a momento to posterity of that horrid massacre,” according to the book “Samuel Adams: The Life of an American Revolutionary.”

“The Bloody Massacre Perpetrated in King Street, Boston on March 5th 1770 by a Party of the 29th Regt,” engraving of the Boston Massacre by Paul Revere, circa 1770

The irony was that many in the crowd outside the State House that night were poor, underprivileged minorities and immigrants often ignored in the hierarchy of Boston society.

John Adams, hoping to downplay the image of a lawless city during the Boston Massacre trial, described the crowd as working class outsiders who were “most probably a motley rabble of saucy boys, negroes and mulattoes, Irish teagues and outlandish jack tarrs.”

These words were a direct reference towards the very victims themselves a rope maker named Samuel Gray, a teenaged apprentice named Samuel Maverick, an Irish immigrant named Patrick Carr, a “mulatto” seaman named Crispus Attucks and a young mariner named James Caldwell.

Adams tried to discredit and blame the victims for the massacre, particularly Attucks, who’s “mad behavior, in all probability, the dreadful carnage of that night is chiefly ascribed.

When the last victim, Patrick Carr, gave a deathbed confession forgiving the soldiers for their actions, Samuel Adams, unhappy that his martyr forgave his killers, called him an Irish “papist” who died in confession to the Catholic church.

Boston Massacre victims grave, Granary Burying Ground, Boston, Mass. Photo Credit Rebecca Brooks

On the day of the victim’s funeral, shops were closed and church bells tolled while ten thousand people attended the funeral and watched as the victim’s bodies were carried by horse-drawn hearse to Granary Burying Ground.

Newspapers covered the funerals extensively, stating:

“The procession began to move between the hours of four and five in the afternoon, two of the unfortunate sufferers, viz. Messrs. James Caldwell and Crispus Attucks who were strangers, borne from Faneuil Hall attended by a numerous train of persons of all ranks and the other two, viz. Mr. Samuel Gray, from the house of Mr. Benjamin Gray (his brother) on the north side the Exchange, and Mr. Maverick, from the house of his distressed mother, Mrs. Mary Maverick, in Union Street, each followed by their respective relations and friends, the several hearses forming a junction in King Street, the theatre of the inhuman tragedy, proceeded from thence through the Main Street, lengthened by an immense concourse of people so numerous as to be obliged to follow in ranks of six, and bought up by a long train of carriages belonging to the principal gentry of the town. The bodies were deposited in one vault in the middle burying ground. The aggravated circumstances of their death, the distress and sorrow visible in every countenance, together with the peculiar solemnity with which the whole funeral was conducted, surpass description.”

After the funeral, John Hancock, asked fathers across New England to tell their children the story of the massacre until “tears of pity glisten in their eyes, and boiling passion shakes their tender frames,” according to the book Samuel Adams: A Pioneer in Propaganda.

Samuel Adams even arranged an annual celebration each year on the anniversary of the massacre, during which one patriot shouted “The wan tenants of the grave still shriek for vengeance on their remorseless butchers.

Residents in the North End also marked the occasion by placing illuminated images of the victims in their windows for passersby to see.

The reality is that as members of the lower class, if these victims had died under any other circumstances, their deaths would have been considered insignificant and gone overlooked.

The Boston Massacre, illustration published in Our Country, circa 1877

It was solely the political circumstances surrounding their deaths that led to their martyrdom and drew the attention of Samuel Adams and the public.

The Boston Massacre victims are buried at the Granary Burying Ground on Tremont Street, Boston, Mass.

Alexander, John K. Samuel Adams: the Life of an American Revolutionary. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2002
Kidder, Frederic and John Adams. History of the Boston Massacre, March 5, 1770. Joel Munsell, 1870
Miller, John C. Samuel Adams: Pioneer in Propaganda. Stanford University Press, 1936

Black Killed in Boston Massacre - History

In 1770, Crispus Attucks, a black man, became the first casualty of the American Revolution when he was shot and killed in what became known as the Boston Massacre. Although Attucks was credited as the leader and instigator of the event, debate raged for over as century as to whether he was a hero and a patriot, or a rabble-rousing villain.

In the murder trial of the soldiers who fired the fatal shots, John Adams, serving as a lawyer for the crown, reviled the "mad behavior" of Attucks, "whose very looks was enough to terrify any person."

Twenty years earlier, an advertisement placed by William Brown in the Boston Gazette and Weekly Journal provided a more detailed description of Attucks, a runaway: "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 father was said to be an African and his mother a Natick or Nantucket Indian in colonial America, the offspring of black and Indian parents were considered black or mulatto. As a slave in Framingham, he had been known for his skill in buying and selling cattle.

Brown offered a reward for the man's return, and ended with the following admonition: "And all Matters of Vessels and others, are hereby cautioned against concealing or carrying off said Servant on Penalty of Law. " Despite Brown's warning, Attucks was carried off on a vessel many times over the next twenty years he became a sailor, working on a whaling crew that sailed out of Boston harbor. At other times he worked as a ropemaker in Boston.

Attucks' occupation made him particularly vulnerable to the presence of the British. As a seaman, he felt the ever-present danger of impressment into the British navy. As a laborer, he felt the competition from British troops, who often took part-time jobs during their off-duty hours and worked for lower wages. A fight between Boston ropemakers and three British soldiers on Friday, March 2, 1770 set the stage for a later confrontation. That following Monday night, tensions escalated when a soldier entered a pub to look for work, and instead found a group of angry seamen that included Attucks.

That evening a group of about thirty, described by John Adams as "a motley rabble of saucy boys, negroes and molattoes, Irish teagues and outlandish jack tarrs," began taunting the guard at the custom house with snowballs, sticks and insults. Seven other redcoats came to the lone soldier's rescue, and Attucks was one of five men killed when they opened fire.

Patriots, pamphleteers and propagandists immediately dubbed the event the "Boston Massacre," and its victims became instant martyrs and symbols of liberty. Despite laws and customs regulating the burial of blacks, Attucks was buried in the Park Street cemetery along with the other honored dead.

Adams, who became the second American president, defended the soldiers in court against the charge of murder. Building on eyewitness testimony that Attucks had struck the first blow, Adams described him as the self-appointed leader of "the dreadful carnage." In Adams' closing argument, Attucks became larger than life, with "hardiness enough to fall in upon them, and with one hand took hold of a bayonet, and with the other knocked the man down." The officer in charge and five of his men were acquitted, which further inflamed the public.

The citizens of Boston observed the anniversary of the Boston Massacre in each of the following years leading up to the war. In ceremonies designed to stir revolutionary fervor, they summoned the "discontented ghosts" of the victims."

A "Crispus Attucks Day" was inaugurated by black abolitionists in 1858, and in 1888, the Crispus Attucks Monument was erected on the Boston Common, despite the opposition of the Massachusetts Historical Society and the New England Historic Genealogical Society, which regarded Attucks as a villain.

The debate notwithstanding, Attucks, immortalized as "the first to defy, the first to die," has been lauded as a true martyr, "the first to pour out his blood as a precious libation on the altar of a people's rights."

Black Killed in Boston Massacre - History

The "Boston Massacre" occurred on March 5, 1770. A squad of British soldiers. come to support a sentry who was being pressed by a heckling, snowballing crowd, let loose a volley of shots. Three persons were killed immediately and two died later of their wounds, among the victims was Crispus Attucks, a man of black or Indian parentage. Many historian believe that Crispus Attucks was the same man who in 1750 was advertised as a runaway slave from Framingham, Ma. A stranger to Boston, he was leading a march against the Townshend Acts when the killing occurred. Paul Revere who was one of the great patriots of his time, sketched a drawing about the massacre which took place, as well as John Pufford who also drew about the killing. Through research we can conclude that Paul Reveres and John Pufford were both important factors in capturing what really happened in "The Boston Massacre" and that Crispus Attucks was the first black to fall in the American Revolution.

The drawing of The Boston Massacre by Paul Revere is not a piece of art but, it is a historical documentation of the event that happened on March 5, 1770. In Paul Reveres Boston Massacre there are two groups of people in a town square. On the left side you can observe that there are people getting shot and dead bodies laying on the ground. On the right side you can see British soldiers shooting the rebels. In the Background you see a bell tower that bears a clock that seems to read 3:50 p.m. There is a church in the distance that seems to be a witness of the execution taking place. On the right, behind the British soldiers there is a sign that read "Butcheks Hall." There is a total count of eight British soldiers. The way that the soldiers are standing creates a implied line, the hats and the boots of the soldiers are in a straight line that leads to the smoke coming out of rifles. On the opposite side of the soldiers you can clearly see two dead bodies and one man falling down about to met his final resting place.

The Boston Massacre by Paul Revere has a lot of meaning. First of all it mean that this man has the courage to speak out and doesn't care what happens to him even though it was a time of ension in between the Colonies and the British. A terrible catastrophe happened and he put the events down on paper through a drawing. He didn't even care if the British soldiers took him away, he was out to prove a point and that point was that the British were nothing but murderers and tyrants. This drawing is a reminder to all Americans that their "Independence" did not come at a free price, but it came by the blood and sweat of brave men like Paul Revere that stood up and spoke about what was really going on. People like Paul Revere didn't let themselves be intimidated by the British and they place their lives on the line to expose the truth about the conniving British.

The drawing of the Boston Massacre has an Instrumental value upon society as well as a mean of serving the State. The soul intention is for social purpose. This drawing did not benefit Paul Revere, no it served the colonist in a way that it let them know what the British are really all about. The colonist were out protesting the Townshend Acts. The Townshend Acts were implemented by the British to indirectly tax the Colonies. During the protest the British were supposedly startled and shot upon the oncoming crowd. One shot lead to a chain reaction of shots and that lead to deaths unnecessary deaths. Paul Revere used this painting as a social means to outrage the British and make the colonist aware of the cruel nature of the British government.

Unlike Paul Revere, John Pufford took more time in making a composition about the event that took place on March 5. His drawing is also considered a historical document because, it is a living testimony of the Massacre on King Street. What this drawing shows is the there are British soldiers in the middle of a town square with many buildings around them. There are British soldiers to the left and to the right. They are surround the protesting crowed. You can clearly see a British soldier in the middle of the drawing, he is pointing the bayonet at the throat of a black man.

This picture has a lot of meaning within itself. First of all because, it captures a historical event taking place. It also means that the British were racist because, you can clearly see that the Bntish soldier is aiming his bayonet at the throat of a black man.

This drawing has social uses within an instrumental value. John Pufford was stating that the British were only murderers but they were also racist. In the drawing one can clearly see that the soldier is deliberately stabbing the black man in the throat with a bayonet. It also shows clearly that this man was the first black man to fall in the American Revolutionary war.

Crispus Attucks was the first man to fall in the American Revolution. Crispus Attucks is identified as the first person killed in the name of freedom during what has come to be known as the Boston Massacre. Many people believe that he was the same man who in 1750 was advertised as a runaway slave. It is said that he ran away from his master to become a seamen. There is no proof that says that it isn't true as well as there is no proof that say that it is. He was a stranger to Boston, he was leading a march against the Townshend Act's when the massacre occurred. Many people speculate why was he the first to fall. Was he the first to die because he was black or because he gave the British soldiers a reason to fire upon him. It is said that the night before the massacre was faced with a confrontation with a British soldier and that he was very upset because of it. Then the next day he released his anger upon the other soldier by beating one of them with a wooden club. So they were forced to gun him down. On the other hand there is the possibility that he was the first to die because he was black. Man - the Bntish soldiers were scared upon seeing a black man leading a protest that they just felt that the only thing to do was to shoot him down. No one really knows why he was the first to die, maybe it was just an accident or was it. Samuel Maverick, James Caldwell, Samuel Gray and Patrick Carr also died in the so called "Incident" which became known as the Boston Massacre.

The Boston Gazette and the Country Journal were running the story all along there newspaper. They explained in great detail about what happened in that terrible incident. The Gazette said this, "The body of the slain Crispus Attucks lay in state in Fanueil Hall until, along with three other victims of the Boston Massacre, he was entombed in a common sepulcher as thousands bared their heads at the cemetery." This certainly affected all the Bostonians, and they felt that it was necessary for them to pay their respects to the men who died needlessly in that terrible manslaughter.

In conclusion the Boston Massacre is well documented by two historical documents. It was recorded by two men, the courageous Paul Revere, who was better remembered for his "Midnight ride" and John Pufford, This two men risked their necks so that the colonist could see that the British were a bunch of murdering tyrants who did not care one bit about the safety and the life of the colonies. Crispus Attucks was and is recognized as the first black, the first American, to die at the beginning of the American Revolution. No one is for certain why he was the first to die. Was it because of his color or because of vengeance. People don't know for sure but they have their theories about the subject. If it weren't for Paul Revere unselfish act of courage in the way that he opposed the British government by printing out a drawing of the occurrences that bloody day, historians would not be able to really get a feeling of what happened. Unfortunately, that day is remembered because of the blood bath, and because of some courageous men that risked their lives to fight for their rights, like Crispus Attucks. He is the true definition of a hero.

Watch the video: The Boston Massacre


  1. Kendall

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  2. Mecatl

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