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Crispus Attucks

Revolutionary War Figure

Born: c. 1723
Died: 5 March 1770 (shot to death)
Birthplace: ?
Best known as: African-American Revolutionary War hero
Crispus Attucks is remembered as the first American to die in the colonists' fight for freedom from Britain. Attucks was an escaped slave of African and Native American descent, but not much else is known about him. He was part of an angry mob that surrounded eight British soldiers on 5 March 1770 outside the Boston customs house. The soldiers fired on the crowd and Attucks was killed, along with four others. The shootings were quickly dubbed the "Boston Massacre" and held up by angry colonists as a case of British brutality. John Adams, later the second president of the United States, defended the soldiers and won an acquittal, arguing that Attucks and the others were common thugs, not political freedom-fighters. After the trial, patriots said it proved that even a British soldier could get a fair trial in independence-minded Boston, and Attucks was called a martyr for defending political liberty.

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