What does Crispus Attucks represent in African-American history?

Expert Answers
Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr. cited Crispus Attucks as an example of someone who, though he has been largely overlooked by most historians and historical studies, demonstrated profound moral courage.

Attucks was involved (some say he was the instigator) of an incident which we now call the Boston Massacre. Whatever his role, he was the first American casualty in the American Revolution. This makes him a symbol of African-Americans' willingness to die for their country's freedom even before they were afforded any individual freedom by their country. 

James Neyland, author of many African-American biographies, writes that Attucks is an important figure who reminds us that african American history shows American heritage as well as African heritage.

[Attucks] is one of the most important figures in African-American history, not for what he did for his own race but for what he did for all oppressed people everywhere. He is a reminder that the African-American heritage is not only African but American and it is a heritage that begins with the beginning of America.

Crispus Attucks represents the willingness of African-Americans to fight oppression even in their oppressed state. Though his cultural heritage is significant in his story, his patriotism and heroism as an American transcend race and color.