Oxford University Press, USA
First Martyr of Liberty explores how Crispus Attucks's death in the 1770 Boston Massacre led to his achieving mythic significance in African Americans' struggle to incorporate their experiences and heroes into the mainstream of the American historical narrative. While the other victims of the Massacre have been largely ignored, Attucks is widely celebrated as the first to die in the cause of freedom during the era of the American Revolution. He became a symbolic embodiment of black patriotism and citizenship.
This book traces Attucks's career through both history and myth to understand how his public memory has been constructed through commemorations and monuments; institutions and organizations bearing his name; juvenile biographies; works of poetry, drama, and visual arts; popular and academic histories; and school textbooks. There will likely never be a definitive biography of Crispus Attucks since so little evidence exists about the man's actual life. While what can and cannot be known about Attucks is addressed here, the focus is on how he has been remembered--variously as either a hero or a villain--and why at times he has been forgotten by different groups and individuals from the eighteenth century to the present day.