Crispus Attucks was thought to be the first person of African-American descent to be killed in the American Revolution. He died on March 5, 1770, during the Boston Massacre.
Who was Crispus Attucks?
Crispus Attucks was born sometime in 1723 in or near Framingham, Massachusetts. His cultural heritage is the subject of much debate. Some historians believe Attucks was of African and Native American descent. Although his mother was a slave, it is not clear whether Attucks was considered a free black man, or, was a runaway slave himself. Although details of his life are largely unknown, Attucks spent many years as a sailor and working the docks of various colonial ports. Historians who claim he was a runaway slave believe he used the name “Michael Johnson” to elude capture.
Background on the Boston Massacre
Following the 1768 issuance of the Townshend Act, and the subsequent unrest in Boston, British soldiers patrolled Boston’s streets, leading to resentment and bitterness among the citizens. On the night of March 5, 1770, tensions finally boiled over when a British soldier assaulted a Boston man who was harassing him. Tensions quickly escalated as a mob of Bostonians gathered with ice chunks, bottles, and other objects. Several British soldiers were cornered. When someone within the mob hurled a club at a soldier, gunshots rang out. When the mob finally dispersed, five Bostonians were left dead including Crispus Attucks, who was thought to be the first killed.
Not Everyone Saw Attucks as a Hero
While Attucks and the other dead were hailed as heroes in Boston, future president John Adams thought otherwise. Adams blamed Attucks for trying to be the “hero of the night” and by helping to fan the flames of the riot with his “mad behavior.” Adams defended the British soldiers in the ensuing trial and most were acquitted of wrongdoing, having acted in self-defense. Attucks was buried with the four others who died during the Boston Massacre in the Granary Burying Ground, where many other Boston heroes such as Samuel Adams and John Hancock are buried.
Long after his death, Crispus Attucks remains a hero and symbol of freedom. Schools, parks, roads, and theaters across America bear his name.
Crispus Attucks Articles
Why Did John Adams Defend the British Soldiers Accused in the Boston Massacre?
The Truth Behind Paul Bunyan's Iconic Boston Massacre Woodcut
Crispus Attucks Activities (Mostly Grades 4-7)
- Crispus Attucks Activity Bundle (On Teachers Pay Teachers) . This packet includes all of the printables below in a sinlge bundle and comes with an answer sheet. Only $2.25! It's a great and convenient way to support MrNussbaum.com. Remember that all of our bundles are FREE when you subscribe to MrN365.com. These are worth hundreds of dollars.
- Crispus Attucks Printable Reading Comprehension - This resource includes a historical passage and ten multiple choice questions.
- Crispus Attucks Online Correct-me Passage - This fun activity requires students to correct a passage about the life of Crispus Attucks that has eight factual errors. Students first must discover the errors, then click on them and select the correct answer from the drop down menu.
- Crispus Attucks Online Fact or Fiction - This fun activity requires students to read a Crispus Attucks passage and then, to sort 11 statements into those that are facts and those that are fiction. The program gives immediate feedback.
- Crispus Attucks Online Fact or Fiction - Printable - This fun activity requires students to read a Crispus Attucks passage and then, to sort 11 statements into those that are facts and those that are fiction.
- Crispus Attucks Text Elements (Headings) - This printable activity requires students to match the five different headings to their correct paragraphs.
- Crispus Attucks Cloze Reading - This fun activity requires students to read a Crispus Attucks passage and then, to sort 15 statements into those that are facts and those that are fiction. The program gives immediate feedback.
- Virtual History Teacher - Grading a "Crispus Attucks" Test - Students play the role of a virtual history teacher and must grade responses to three questions about the life of Crispus Attucks. Each response is incomplete, and students must fill in the missing information in the "response" section. It's designed to reinforce the importance of elaboration. Students can use the Crispus Attucks biography for reference.