Late in the afternoon of March 5, 1770, British sentries guarding the Boston Customs House shot into a crowd of civilians killing three and injuring eight others, two of them mortally. Surrounded by jeering Bostonians slinging hard-packed snowballs, the small group of soldiers lost control when one of their number was struck. They fired despite explicit orders to the contrary.
African-American sailor Crispus Attucks was the first to fall. Attucks’ past remains mysterious, but he likely escaped slavery around 1750 and spent the next twenty years working whaling ships. The only victim of the Boston Massacre whose name became widely known, Crispus Attucks was memorialized as the first hero of the American Revolution.
~Library of Congress