when a policeman walked out of a barbershop without paying. An adolescent boy followed the officer outside and made a disparaging remark behind his back.
The cop spun and hit the boy in the face with his gun. Word spread quickly. When 47 year-old Crispus Attucks heard of the injustice, he walked directly to the police station and shouted for the policeman to “step outside and try that on someone his own size.”
An angry crowd gathered. The cop came out with a loaded rifle and brought five other policemen with him. Striding up to within a few feet of Attucks, the officer aimed the rifle directly at his head. In a blink, Attucks grabbed the end of the rifle barrel, yanked it up next to his ear, then slammed the butt-end of the rifle into the face of the officer.
Crispus Attucks fell dead before the cop hit the ground, shot by 2 of the other policemen.
Sadly, Crispus had only just returned to Boston after being gone for 20 years.
Shortly after he had left, the following ad had appeared in the October 2 issue of the Boston Gazette: “Ran away from his Master William Brown from Framingham, on the 30th of Sept. last, a Molatto Fellow, about 27 Years of age, named Crispas, 6 Feet two Inches high, short curl’d Hair, his Knees nearer together than common: had on a light colour’d Bearskin Coat.”
Crispus Attucks, the dark hero of the white barber’s boy, had been born a slave, the child of an African father and a Native American mother. He was 6’2” in a day when the average man was only 5’7”.
For more than a decade Crispus had carefully saved the money he earned trading horses and cattle, then, when his owner refused to sell him his freedom, he escaped first to Boston, then to Nantucket where he became a harpooner on a whaling ship. To threaten Crispus Attucks while holding something like a harpoon within his grasp was not a smart move for the red-coated policeman.
In a single, reflexive moment, Crispus became the first man to die in the struggle that would become America’s War for Independence. Four other Americans died of gunshot wounds suffered in the fight that followed the murder of Crispus Attucks. Their collective deaths would become known as the Boston Massacre.
The Redcoats would not see another man as tall or as audacious as Crispus Attucks until they faced a farmer from Virginia named George Washington.
Roy H. Williams