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Crispus Attucks

Crispus Attucks

Date, Location

    Crispus Attucks in American History and Memory

    Western Michigan University history professor Mitch Kachun presents his research on Crispus Attucks, of African and Native American ancestry, the first American killed in the 1770 Boston Massacre.

    Crispus Attucks

    In 1770, Crispus Attucks, a black man, became the first casualty of the American Revolution when he was shot and killed in what became known as the Boston Massacre. Although Attucks was credited as the leader and instigator of the event, debate raged for over as century as to whether he was a hero and a patriot, or a rabble-rousing villain.

    The debate notwithstanding, Attucks, immortalized as “the first to defy, the first to die,” has been lauded as a true martyr, “the first to pour out his blood as a precious libation on the altar of a people’s rights.” (PBS) more... 

    Mitch Kachun


    Mitch Kachun is Associate Professor in the History department at Western Michigan University, where he specializes in African American History, historical memory, and public commemorations. His research explores how African Americans during the 19th and 20th centuries have used historical knowledge and events like emancipation celebrations in their efforts to work for equal rights, construct a sense of collective identity, and claim control over their status and destiny in American society. Kachun earned the PhD in History at Cornell University in 1997. He also holds an MS in History from Illinois State University, and a BA in Anthropology from Penn State University.

    Kachun’s current research projects address black patriotism at the 1901 Pan American Exposition; the changing roles of emancipation celebrations in the mid-20th century; and a major book on Crispus Attucks’s place in American history and memory. He lives with his family and dogs in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (WMU) more...