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Mon, 03.05.1770

Black History, and the Boston Massacre, a story

British attack demonstrators

*This is the date of the Boston Massacre in 1770. That evening Crispus Attucks, a free Black man, was the first person to die for America’s independence; here’s what happened.

The British government had decided that their colonies should help pay for the cost of military protection in North America, so a series of import duties were to be collected. This money owed had been ignored for years, and now parliament had sent troops to show that they meant business. Boston became an occupied city.  The poor and unemployed were the most susceptible to mob action, eager for a fight and egged on by merchants who had to pay the duties.

No one is sure how Crispus Attucks happened to be with the mob that confronted that British Garrison. A runaway slave and abolitionist from nearby Farmington, on that night, he was at the head of the crowd on State Street.  Attucks was the first to fall. Accounts say that a chunk of ice hit one of the soldiers, who lost his footing. As he recovered his balance against orders, he fired, and his companions did likewise. Attucks and two others were dead at the scene, two more died later, and six were wounded.

John Adams later wrote: "On that night, the foundation of American Independence was laid.” The soldiers were tried and acquitted. A monument to Crispus Attucks and the Boston Massacre was dedicated in 1888.

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