In 1770 British soldiers were sent by the King of England
to enforce the laws that the American colonists did not want to obey. The
colonists were especially angry about having to pay high taxes to England
and there was talk of going to war. There had been many complaints
about the soldiers rough treatment of the people of Boston and when it was
reported that a young boy had been beaten, a mob of angry men went out looking
for them. They waved sticks and threw snowballs at the British soldiers
and shouted insults at them.
Crispus Attacks was a slave who had run away from a farm in Massachusetts.
He found work as a sailor on whaling ships and he was also a rope maker
in Boston. Crispus Attacks was described as very big and strong man. A
witness said that when the soldiers raised their rifles, Crispus Attucks
"with one hand took hold of a bayonet, and with the other knocked the man
down." The soldiers then opened fire, killing him and four other men.
It was called the Boston Massacre because none of the colonists had guns
and it was said at the trial of the British soldiers that they had over reacted
and should be found guilty of murdering the five men. The soldiers were
not found guilty of murder and this caused more anger against the British.
Crispus Attucks was buried as a hero in the white people's cemetery and a
monument was built to honor him as "the first to defy, the first to die" in
the war for independence that America fought to become a free country.
These two very different looking pictures were both painted to illustrate
this event in our country's history. Using his abstract style, Jacob
Lawrence tries to get us to understand the subject. How do you think
Crispus Attacks felt at that time? Henry Pelham painted the scene
of the Boston Massacre realistically, as he saw it. He was there that
day, and as a witness to the event, he is a primary source of information
about what happened. Which details of his painting might have been
used as evidence in the trial of the British soldiers?
You can read more about Crispus Attucks.
Crispus Attucks: Black Leader of Colonial Patriots, by
Dharathula H. Millender, Gray Morrow (Illustrator)
Published: Simon and Schuster Children's, 1982
ISBN (Identification Number) 0020418108
Cost of Freedom: Crispus Attucks and the Boston Massacre, by Joanne Mattern
Published: Rosen Publishing, 2004
ISBN (Identification Number): 0823943410
Here is an explanation of the Boston Massacre and Henry Pelham's picture