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A Profile in Courage

Sitting near the edge of Boston Common in Boston, Massachusetts, between Avery Street and Tremont Street is a statue made of bronze. This statue, standing at 25 feet tall, and erected in 1888, is a tribute to the events that occurred on the night of March 5th, 1770, a distant 250 years ago. The womanly figure on the statue, shown below, represents the Spirit of the Revolution. She holds in one hand broken chains, which symbolize freedom from oppression, and the American flag in the other. Her right foot is crushing the British crown while an eagle prepares to fly (Museum).

The event was the Boston Massacre. Five men were martyred on that night, including one man known as the first casualty of the American Revolutionary War, Crispus Attucks.

He was an African-American rope-maker from Framingham, Massachusetts, who had escaped slavery and found work in Boston in the maritime industry. When the British tried to restrict the rights of the colonists more and more, the redcoats took work away from colonists as well. On the day of March 2nd, 1770, some rope-makers got into a fight with British soldiers. Only three days later, the story goes: a British soldier entered a local pub looking for work, and was met with great anger from the locals. Attucks was a part of the pub crowd and this encounter lead to a rapidly escalating situation in which redcoats started showing up to quell the situation. Eventually, more Bostonians joined together and started pelting the redcoats with anything in reach, including snowballs.

Nobody knows which redcoat shot first, but Crispus Attucks was the first to die.

This event rapidly pushed both sides closer to war. To make matters worse, all of the soldiers involved were completely acquitted thanks to a self-defense argument led by John Adams, who eventually became our nations second president.

After Attucks was martyred, something that was nearly unthinkable in the city became reality. Segregation laws were suspended and Attucks was buried with the other victims who were white. His direct legacy became a sort of legend for locals and for future leaders. Being an African-American man, many abolitionists, including Frederick Douglass, looked to him as part of the reason why slavery needed to end in America (Biographies). If an African-American man was the first to spill blood for the sake of freedom, then why shouldn’t all be able to enjoy freedoms? Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about Crispus Attucks in his book, Why We Can’t Wait, saying:

He [Attucks] is one of the most important figures in African-American history, not for what he did for his own race but for what he did for all oppressed people everywhere. He is a reminder that the African-American heritage is not only African but American and it is a heritage that begins with the beginning of America.

For a man that little is really known about, Crispus Attucks is an integral part of American History, and should forever be known as a symbol of freedom. He stood up against a tyrannical government, gave his life, and helped spark the American Revolutionary War so that our nation could move closer towards freedom. This revolution for freedom still persists today, and the spirit of Crispus Attucks lives on through new revolutionaries. 

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