Sunday, November 15, 2015

Real American History

Nicolas Lampert's, ‘A People's Art History of the United States’, writes that the first person to die in the Boston Massacre of March 1770 was a former slave named Crispus Attucks. Attucks had been part of an enormous multi-racial, working-class group that confronted the British with the tools they had available - snowballs and wooden bats. Paul Revere published what became the most popular image of the incident, an engraving called The Bloody Massacre. It was wildly inaccurate. "Revere," Lampert writes, "depicted the crowd as passive, turning a working class mob into a respectable assortment of men and women. Worst of all, he depicts Attucks as someone he wasn't a white man. Revere's engraving was designed as anti-British propaganda that fell in line with how wealthy colonial elites wanted to portray the revolution: a revolt that was led by an educated, white, male leadership that had rallied the colonial population against the unjust policies of the British Parliament and its use of force."

Lampert adds, the image traveled up and down the East coast - and to Europe - and was likely the only thing most people saw or heard about the brawl. This, he writes, "obscured the class tensions that existed in colonial America," and completely erased Attucks since, apparently, Revere was unwilling to allow a non-white rebel to become a revolutionary martyr.

Revere, alongside John Quincy Adams, were overtly antagonistic toward those who led the anti-British fightback, dubbing them "a motley rabble of saucy boys, Negroes and molattoes [sic], Irish Teagues, and out landish [sic] Jack Tarrs."


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