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Honoring American Patriots: Crispus Attucks – By Terry Pettee

By Terry Pettee

We in America recognize July 4, 1776, as the birth date of our nation. It was on that date the Continental Congress voted to declare the 13 colonies separate and free from Britain – for a second time. The Congress actually first approved national independence on July 2, 1776. The second vote, two days later, came about when it was decided the declaration needed some tweaking.

If it is permissible to play upon the notion a nation can be born, then the Colonies became pregnant with the idea of independence years before. The American Revolution became an armed conflict on April 19, 1775, when Colonial militiamen and British soldiers exchanged musket fire at Lexington and Concord.

However, historians maintain the first shots fired igniting the war were on March 5, 1770. On that date, five Colonials were killed and six wounded near the Boston government buildings.

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The confrontation between the Colonials and the British troops started over an unpaid barber’s bill. Over several days the dispute egged on by variety of British Parliament acts, escalated into a physical confrontation. According to newspaper accounts of the time, the unarmed Colonials hurled snowballs at the outnumbered British soldiers who fired muskets into the crowd.

Among the five Colonials struck was Crispus Attucks. Attucks was struck twice in the chest. He died on the scene. Crispus Attucks is considered by historians to be the first American to die from wounds suffered in the American Revolution.

Strictly speaking, Crispus Attucks was not a soldier, he was a sailor on a whaling ship. He was, however, a sailor. The individual colonies had militia but no navy in 1770.

More to the point, he was an American and patriot.

It can be said that among those assembled in protest that day in 1770 Crispus Attucks had greater claim to be an American than any other. His mother was Nancy Attucks. Attucks is the Narragansetts word for “deer”. Nancy Attucks was a Wampanoag Native American enslaved to a European immigrant.

Crispus Attucks is representative of melding pot of America. His ancestry included African American, European and Native American. The newspaper accounts of the day referred to Crispus Attucks as a “mulatto”, which fixated on his skin tone, not his ethnicity. Crispus Attucks was the accumulation of ethnic diversity in America.

Crispus Attucks was born due west of Boston in Framingham, Massachusetts about 1723. Framingham records show him as a slave owned by a man named. At the time of his death, he was a free man. How he came to be freed from slavery is unknown.

What is known about Crispus Attucks is praiseworthy.

The five Colonial Americans who died on March 5, 1770 lay-in-state at Faneuil Hall through March 8, 1770. The five were buried together in Boston’s Granary Burying Ground (Cemetery) as heroes.

Faneuil Hall was built in 1742 is located near the waterfront and Government Center in Boston. It is often referred to as the Cradle of liberty and has served as a marketplace and meeting hall even to this day. It is also a much-visited stop on the Freedom Trail.

There could be no more appropriate representative of an American hero than Crispus Attucks. He reflects the ethnic diversity of America. His struggle for freedom and independence is the American theme. His sacrifice should never be forgotten.


Terry Pettee is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University where his undergraduate study prepared him for a career in secondary education. Prior to attending EMU, he was Editor-In-Chief of the Erie Square Gazette while a student at the St. Clair County Community College. Between his community college and university years, he was Marysville Editor of the St. Clair County Independent Press where he was a newspaper reporter and columnist. After a brief teaching stint, his life’s journey led him into human resource and industrial relations management; a career spanning four decades. Now retired, Terry writes both Christian values based fiction and non-fiction for his own amusement, which is babble-speak for saying he has only a single published book to his credit.

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