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Crispus Attucks Playground

Crispus Attucks Playground

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This playground is named for Crispus Attucks (c. 1723-1770), an African American killed in the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770. Although little is known about Attucks’s early life, he is remembered as a runaway slave from Framingham, Massachusetts, who spent more than 20 years working on ships sailing from Boston.

Historical accounts suggest that Attucks was of mixed African and Native American parentage. According to a notice in the Boston Gazette of November 20, 1750, Attucks escaped bondage from his owner, William Browne of Framingham, Massachusetts, in early November of that year. How he made it to Boston and what he did in the intervening years before his death are not known, although he is believed to have worked - a free man - on whaling ships. Slavery was not abolished in Massachusetts until 1783.

In 1768, following colonial protests over the passage of a series of import duties, known as the Townshend Acts, British troops were sent to Boston to keep order. The soldiers’ presence exacerbated tensions between the British and the Americans. On March 5, 1770, Attucks joined a crowd that was jeering at British soldiers stationed in Boston. Panicked, the soldiers fired into the crowd, killing five men and wounding two others. Attucks, standing toward the front of the crowd, was the first killed. The soldiers involved stood trial but were acquitted, and the Boston Massacre became a rallying cry for radical American patriots who would no longer tolerate the economic pressures imposed by the British crown.  Attucks, whose efforts to regain his own freedom became intertwined with those of the colonists, became a symbol of the American colonial fight for freedom.

Located at the intersection of Fulton Street and Classon Avenue in Brooklyn, Parks acquired this site in 1926 for the purpose of a public playground. The playground opened on Sunday, October 28, 1934, along with two others in Manhattan and the Bronx on that same day. The Board of Aldermen designated this park Crispus Attucks Playground, in honor of the first African American to be killed in the American War of Independence (1775-1783).

At the dedication of the Crispus Attucks monument in Boston on November 14, 1888, the following lines of verse were read:

                                    And honor to Crispus Attucks, who was leader and voice

                                                that day;

                                    The first to defy, and the first to die, with Maverick, Carr

                                                 and Gray.

                                    Call it riot or revolution, his hand first clenched at the

                                                crown;

                                    His feet were the first in perilous place to pull the king's

                                                flag down;

                                    His breast was the first one rent apart that liberty's stream

                                                might flow;

                                    For our freedom now and forever, his head was the first laid

                                                low.

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  • Crispus Attucks Playground Basketball Court
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