Episode 230: Mitch Kachun, First Martyr of Liberty

Samuel Gray, James Caldwell, Samuel Maverick, Patrick Carr, and Crispus Attucks. These are the five men who died as a result of the shootings on Boston’s King Street on the night of March 5, 1770.

Of these five victims, evidence points to Crispus Attucks falling first, and of all the victims, Crispus Attucks is the name we can recall.

Why is that?

To help us answer this question and to conclude our 3-episode series on the Boston Massacre, we’re joined by Mitch Kachun, a Professor of History at Western Michigan University and the author of First Martyr of Liberty: Crispus Attucks in American Memory.

About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Ben Franklin’s World is a production of the Omohundro Institute.

Episode Summary

Mitch Kachun joins us to investigate the memory and legacy of Crispus Attucks and the Boston Massacre. Mitch is a Professor of History at Western Michigan University and he’s the author of First Martyr of Liberty: Crispus Attucks in American Memory.

During our investigation, Mitch reveals who Crispus Attucks was and the facts and mythologies about his life; Why Attucks disappeared from the historical record after March 5, 1770; And, why Attucks and the Boston Massacre reappeared in Americans’ historical memory after the 1840s.

What You’ll Discover

  • Crispus Attucks
  • Mythology about Attucks
  • Facts about Crispus Attucks
  • Attucks in the historical record
  • 18th-century sailors
  • Attucks’ participation in the Boston mob on March 5, 1770
  • The Boston Massacre orations
  • Why Attucks’ memory reemerged in the 1840s
  • William Cooper Nell
  • Free blacks’ use of Crispus Attucks to gain and claim U.S. citizenship
  • Use of Attucks’ memory to respond to Jim Crow laws
  • The Crispus Attucks Monument
  • Differences between history and memory


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Time Warp PlainTime Warp Question

If you could travel back in time and have a conversation with Crispus Attucks, what questions would you ask him and what would you talk about?

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