Happy Independence Day To Our American Friends – Remembering Crispus Attucks And The Invisible Blacks Of 1776

The Invisible Blacks Of The American Revolution

Happy July 4th Independence Day to our American friends. Like many Caribbean families, we have relatives in the USA and other countries – even in the country of Brooklyn. 😉

The world is a smaller place now.

This Independence Day we’d like to remember Crispus Attucks, a man who was killed in the infamous Boston Massacre of 1770 – an event that became a catalyst for a growing revolution. The poster above was created by revolutionary Paul Revere to get word out about the murder of Boston civilians by British troops.

I guess these days they would call Mr. Revere an “insurgent”. The Brits probably called him something else.

Bye the way… did you know that many of the “British” troops that battled Revere and his comrades during the American Revolution were German? You didn’t know that? I am still amazed at the number of Americans who don’t know that.

But I am more amazed at the number of Americans who don’t know that blacks fought on both sides of the American Revolution, but perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that these soldiers have been so invisible through the centuries.

See that poster of the Boston Massacre? Do you see any black Americans falling to the British shots? Former slave and then free man Crispus Attucks was one of the dead on that March day so long ago – but he is not depicted in that poster by Revere. That is not to say that Paul Revere was a racist – maybe he was or wasn’t, I don’t know.

But the intent of the poster was to inspire Americans to outrage at the murders of Boston civilians – and in 1770 the death of a former slave wasn’t exactly a tragedy to inspire rebellion.

So as we wish our American friends well on this day, we want them to remember that the history of the American Revolution isn’t as white as the school textbooks have proclaimed for the past two hundred years.

Further Reading

Black Sailors and Soldiers During the American Revolution – Crispus Attucks

African Americans In The Revolutionary Period

Crispus Attucks – First To Die For Liberty

Long Island University – African American Soldiers

The Revolution’s Black Soldiers

11 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Culture & Race Issues, History, Military, Race, Slavery

11 responses to “Happy Independence Day To Our American Friends – Remembering Crispus Attucks And The Invisible Blacks Of 1776

  1. Long Beach California

    Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Bimbro

    Bimbro
    July 4, 2008 at 5:18 pm
    Dear BFP, I’m surprised that in view of the above u did n’t see fit to mention America’s Independence Day, today. Is it because of any inveterate, hatred of the US? I surmise that the US has almost certainly, been as beneficial to Barbadians in terms of emigration as Canada!

    ************************

    Dear BFP, I know u would n’t want others to be unaware that I reminded u of this in the ‘Canada-Day’ discussion, so I’ve taken the liberty of doing so for u, however, it does n’t appear to be the resounding homage to the US, which I’d anticipated!

  3. J

    It is believed that Crispus Attucks was born in Barbados and was moved to Boston when he was a young.

  4. J

    Not that Barbados is taking all the credit for the American Revolution, but Crispus Attucks was raised here and the young George Washington spent some time here and was impressed by what he saw.

  5. BFP

    Hi J…

    I didn’t know about the Barbados possibility. It would be a fine thing if he was born here. I am finding a few bios that say he was born in the US. I’ll keep looking.

    thanks for taking the research in a different direction. Love blogging!

    Here is one bio. URL at the end…

    Little is known about the early years of Crispus Attucks. He was born a slave around 1723 probably in the colony of Massachusetts. His father, Prince Yonger, was an African and his mother, Nancy Attucks, was an Indian and possible descendant of John Attucks, a member of the Natick Indian tribe. John Attucks was executed for treason in 1676 during the King Philip War. The word “attuck” in the Natick language means deer. In 1750, Crispus was a slave of William Brown of Framingham.

    Crispus was an expert trader of horses and cattle and did business with white men. He kept the money he made and tried to buy his freedom from his owner, William Brown. However, his owner refused to purchase his freedom because of Crispus’ value to him. Because Crispus wanted his freedom, he ran away from his owner. His owner desperately wanted him back and printed a fugitive slave notice in the October 2, 1750 issue of the Boston “Gazette,” it read:

    “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 nearer together than common; and had on a light colour’d beaver skin 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.”

    Attucks was never caught and nothing is known of the twenty years before he resurfaced again. Historians surmise that he escaped to Nantucket, Massachusetts and sailed as a harpoonist on a whaling ship. During those twenty years, the American colonies were in conflict with England. The colonies resented the fact that they had to buy almost everything from England and were unhappy about the lack of free trade. The most outspoken colony was Massachusetts. British king, George III, sent two regiments into the Boston Harbor in the fall of 1769. The British occupation resulted in many conflicts with the citizens of Boston. According to historian John Fiske, “the soldiers did many things that greatly annoyed the people. They led brawling, riotous lives, and made the quite street hideous by night with their drunken shouts…On Sundays the soldiers would race horses on the Common, or would play ‘Yankee Doodle’ just outside the church-doors during the services.”

    Crispus Attucks was living in Boston during this time. On March 5, 1770 Crispus was eating dinner when he became aware of a fight between Boston men and British soldiers. He went to Dock Square to investigate. He picked up a stick and shouted to the crowd gathered there to follow him to King Street. When they arrived at King Street, Attucks went to the front of the crowd and struck at one of the British Soldiers. The soldier fired and hit Attucks with two musket balls. Four other men were killed, and six others were wounded. The next day, Attucks’ body was taken to Faneuil Hall, and two days later, all the businesses were closed for his and the other victims’ funeral. The funeral was attended by the largest crowd known to have assembled in North America. Attucks was buried in the Old Granary Burial Ground. This traumatic event is known as the Boston Massacre.

    The British soldiers were placed on trial for the murders, and the charge stated that Attucks had been attacked “with force and arms, feloniously, willfully, and of malice aforethought.” The soldier who had attacked Attucks was found not guilty, and two other soldiers were found guilty. The guilty soldiers received a punishment consisting of having their hands branded with a hot iron. The citizens of Boston were outraged at the verdict. But Crispus Attucks became a hero and has been honored as a man who died fighting for his freedom and that of others.

    In 1888, a Crispus Attucks monument was erected on Boston Common. At the unveiling, John Fiske said the Boston Massacre, “was one of the most significant and impressive events in the noble struggle in which our forefathers succeeded in vindicating, for themselves and their posterity, the sacred right of self-government.” In 1996, President Clinton enacted a Black Patriots Coin Law to commemorate African American contributions to the founding of America. The coin was struck in 1998, the 275th anniversary of the birth of Crispus Attucks, the first black man to die for America’s freedom. According to Philip Diehl, Director of the U.S. Mint, “The Black Revolutionary War Patriots Silver Dollar will recall and commemorate history by focusing on Crispus Attucks’ sacrifice as a symbol of the commitment of all Black American patriots.”

    http://www.essortment.com/all/crispusattucks_rhqa.htm

  6. John

    I searched for Crispus and then Attucks in the database of slave names for British Dependencies at ancestry.com.

    I didn’t find any indicating to me that those names were probably not in use by the slave population anywhere in the British dependencies between 1817 and 1834.

  7. John

    I tried a search for Bussa in the database but it only turned up three instances, one in Jamaica and two in Barbados.

    Of the two Barbadian Bussa’s one is recorded as the property of Naboth Greaves and was born c.1752 and the other was recorded as the property of John Robert Pollard and born c. 1808.

    The Jamaican Bussa was born c.1777 in Clarendon and recorded as the property of William Beckford Esquire.

    Will try other spellings and see what I find.

  8. Green Monkey

    Well happy birthday USA. I do have to say, though, that I find it a bit sad that a country that stands for freedom and democracy lets its president do an end run around their constitution such that its prison camp interrogators are taught methods gleaned directly from a communist Chinese torture manual – a manual specifically designed by the commies to elicit false confessions from US prisoners in the Korean War.

    China Inspired Interrogations at Guantánamo
    By SCOTT SHANE

    WASHINGTON — The military trainers who came to Guantánamo Bay in December 2002 based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of “coercive management techniques” for possible use on prisoners, including “sleep deprivation,” “prolonged constraint,” and “exposure.”

    What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners.

    The recycled chart is the latest and most vivid evidence of the way Communist interrogation methods that the United States long described as torture became the basis for interrogations both by the military at the base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and by the Central Intelligence Agency.

    SNIP

    The 1957 article from which the chart was copied was entitled “Communist Attempts to Elicit False Confessions From Air Force Prisoners of War” and written by Albert D. Biderman, a sociologist then working for the Air Force, who died in 2003. Mr. Biderman had interviewed American prisoners returning from North Korea, some of whom had been filmed by their Chinese interrogators confessing to germ warfare and other atrocities.

    Those orchestrated confessions led to allegations that the American prisoners had been “brainwashed,” and provoked the military to revamp its training to give some military personnel a taste of the enemies’ harsh methods to inoculate them against quick capitulation if captured.

    In 2002, the training program, known as SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape, became a source of interrogation methods both for the C.I.A. and the military. In what critics describe as a remarkable case of historical amnesia, officials who drew on the SERE program appear to have been unaware that it had been created as a result of concern about false confessions by American prisoners.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/02/us/02detain.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&pagewanted=print&adxnnlx=1215298829-JSPj2lHY1EYLidFop3hdpQ

    See this Young Turks Youtube video.

  9. .8

    The History of the American struggle, is inestimably linked to Barbados. The State of South Carolina, in point owes most of its economic prowess to Barbados. The United States, as quiet as it is kept, has the validation of Barbados’ role throughout history in the struggles that forged America’s freedom, and later its greatness. Barbadians can be assured by the passage of history, that our place as an Island nation, is linked to America, by the sands of time.

  10. ladydi

    Sorry, but there isn’t any Crispus Attucks connection to Barbados. I am married to a Barbadian (and have Bajan ancestry) and live there now but grew up in Massachusetts only a half mile from where Attucks worked on a farm in Franingham, Massachusetts, USA. I was on a committee that honored him with a community celebration a few years ago and we placed a bronze marker to remember him. Attucks was of mixed African American and Natick (American) Indian.

  11. .8

    Whether or not Crispus Attucks was bajan or African American, is of little relevance. All of this literary diatribe, is meaningless. Of significance however, is the role that Barbados played in the economic development of the United States. In places like, the American State of South Carolina, Barbados’ link to that state’s plantation system, generated an enormous amount of money for the plantocracy. So, if America feel’s the need to claim Attucks, go right ahead, history will always reveal America’s link to Barbados.