Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Black History Month Day Two

Here is your Day Two of Black History/Our History Knowledge (see don't ever say that you didn't learn anything by reading my blog):

Crispus Attucks:

born 1723 – March 5, 1770. Crispus was killed in the Boston Massacre in Boston, Massachusetts. He has been named as the first martyr of the American Revolution.

Little is known for certain about Crispus Attucks beyond that he, along with Samuel Gray and James Caldwell, died "on the spot" during the incident. Two major sources of eyewitness testimony about the Boston Massacre, both published in 1770, did not refer to Attucks as a "Negro," or "black" man. The first was a report commissioned by the town of Boston, "A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre," which contained over one hundred depositions from locals about what they saw on March 5, 1770. The second source, "The Trial of William Wemms," referred to Attucks more than a dozen times as a "mulatto" or "molatto," and once as an "Indian", another as a "tall man," and yet another as a "stout," or muscular man. While 19th-century anti-slavery advocates later focused on Attucks' African heritage, Bostonians in 1770 considered him mixed-race.

Historians disagree on whether Crispus Attucks was a free man or an escaped slave; but it is widely agreed that he was of Native American (Wampanoag) and African descent. It is also unclear if his presence at the scene was intentional or accidental. There are some reports that he was not a participant in the riot but happened upon the scene at a tragic time and that he became collateral damage. Later he became an icon of the anti-slavery movement and held up as an example of the first black hero of the American Revolution. The other victims of the attack being: Samuel Gray and James Caldwell who like, Attucks, were killed during the attack; while Samuel Maverick and Patrick Carr died from their wounds afterward.

In the early nineteenth century, as the Abolitionist movement gained momentum in Boston, Attucks was lauded as an example of a black American who played a heroic role in the history of the United States. Because Crispus Attucks had Wampanoag ancestors, his story also holds special significance for many Native Americans.

Crispus Attucks, one of the people killed in the Boston Massacre which started the American Revolution, is a central figure in the development of independence in the U.S. He was the only African American that was killed. There is a theory that he went by a different name, Michael Johnson. In addition, with regard to his mixed heritage, during the colonial period, it was not uncommon for Native American and African-descent people to unite and have children together. Attucks in all likelihood had both Wampanoag and African ancestry. Because slavery and racial discrimination were conditions of life in the 18th century, few detailed accounts of ordinary people from the colonial period exist. The name "Crispus" was mentioned in some records from the period; without a surname, to determine if these refer to Attucks. Historians have speculated whether an advertisement placed in the Boston Gazette on October 2, 1750 referred to Crispus Attucks:

“ Ran away from his Master William Brown of Framingham on the 30th of Sept. last a mulatto Fellow, about 27 years of age, named Crispus, 6 Feet and 2 inches high, short curl'd Hair, his Knees near together than common; and had on a light colour'd Beaverskin Coat, plain new buckskin breeches, blue yarn stockings and a checked woolen shirt. Whoever shall take up said runaway and convey him to his aforesaid master shall have 10 pounds old tenor reward, and all necessary charges paid. And all masters of vessels and others are hereby cautioned against concealing or carrying off said servant on penalty of law.[5] ”

In the aftermath of King Philip's War in 1676, a Wampanoag man named Jean Attucks was executed for treason. Throughout the 17th to 19th centuries, the surname “Attucks” was used by Praying Indians around Natick and Framingham. The anthropological research of Frank Speck, as well as the work of Algonquian linguistics scholars Ives Goddard, Kathleen Bragdon, and Jessie Little Doe Baird, suggest that "Attucks" is likely an Anglicisation of the Wôpanââk word, ahtuq, meaning "deer", in combination with, ees, meaning "little."

Attucks has often been praised in writing meant to inspire Americans to work toward the ideals of freedom and racial equality. In 1858, Boston-area Abolitionists established "Crispus Attucks Day." In 1886, the places where Crispus Attucks and Samuel Gray fell were marked by circles on the pavement. Within each circle, a hub with spokes leading out to form a wheel.

Two years later, a monument honoring Attucks was erected on Boston Common. It is over 25 feet high and a little over 10 feet wide. The bas-relief (raised portion on the face of the main part of the monument) portrays the Boston Massacre, with Attucks lying in the foreground. Under the scene is the date, March 5, 1770. Above the bas-relief stands a female figure, Free America. With her left hand, she clasps a flag about to be unfurled, and in her right hand, she holds the broken chain of oppression. Beneath her right foot, she crushes the royal crown of England, which lies torn and twisted on the ground. At the left of the figure, clinging to the edge of the base, is an eagle. Thirteen stars are cut into one of the faces of the monument. Beneath these stars in raised letters are the names of the five men who were killed that day: Crispus Attucks, Samuel Gray, James Caldwell, Samuel Maverick, and Patrick Carr.

In 1888, leaders of the Massachusetts Historical Society and the New England Historic Genealogical Society opposed the creation of the Crispus Attucks memorial on Boston Common. Today, both organizations use Crispus Attucks’s name to foster interest in black history and genealogy.

The poet John Boyle O'Reilly wrote the following poem when the monument was finally unveiled:

And to honor Crispus Attucks who was the leader and voice that day: The first to defy, and the first to die, with Maverick, Carr, and Gray. Call it riot or revolution, or mob or crowd as you may, such deaths have been seeds of nations, such lives shall be honored for aye...

Martin Luther King, Jr., referred to Crispus Attucks in the introduction of Why We Can't Wait (1964) as an example of a man whose contribution to history, though much-overlooked by standard histories, provided a potent message of moral courage.

In an unsourced book that appealed to a wide audience, James Neyland wrote his appraisal of Attucks’s significance:

He 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.

In 1998, the United States Treasury released "The Black Revolutionary War Patriots Silver Dollar" featuring Attucks' image on the obverse side. The reverse side of the commemorative coin shows a family of African-American patriots. Funds from sales of the coin were intended for a proposed Black Revolutionary War Patriots Memorial in Washington, DC.

In 2002, the Afrocentrist scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Crispus Attucks as being among the 100 Greatest African Americans.

Places named for Attucks include the Crispus Attucks High School in Indianapolis, Indiana, the Attucks Middle School in Houston, Texas, the Crispus Attucks Elementary School in Kansas City, Missouri, the Attucks Theatre in Norfolk, Virginia, the Crispus Attucks Association in York, Pennsylvania, Crispus Attucks Road in Spring Valley, New York, and the Crispus Attucks Center in Dorchester, Massachusetts.

The first line of the Stevie Wonder song, "Black Man" is about Crispus Attucks.

Why Crispus Attucks is Important to Our History:

Blacks in the United States were only seen as property during the time that Crispus lived. Native Americans were seen as disposable people to be gathered and hidden away on reservations. Crispus was a disposable piece of property in the eyes of the majority of the American society. Crispus showed his worth by standing against injustice, by fighting on behalf of a country, a nation that did not see his own worth. Crispus truly was a hero in that aspect.

The story of Crispus shows us that we can't let hurt, wrongdoing, personal injury and injustices done to us, stop us from standing against injustices done to others. That we must stand for the greater good, we must fight against tyranny and slavery and oppression in all its forms. That is what the life and death of Crispus Attucks shows us. It also lifts my spirits to know that in a time where blacks and Native Americans were not noticed or appreciated, the death of this "mulatto" this "black man" was noticed, revered, remembered and praised for centuries.

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