16. Boston Massacre Memorial on Boston Common

Street or Other Address: Opp. 151 Tremont Street Boston Common

Nearest Corner: Tremont Street between Avery and West Streets

Digital and Degree Coordinates: 42.354383,-71.064467; N42 21.263 W71 03.868

View Boston Massacre Monument. The massacre was remembered in 1858 in a celebration organized by William Cooper Nell an African American abolitionist who saw the death of Crispus Attucks as an opportunity to demonstrate the role of African Americans in the Revolutionary War, In part because of this activism, artwork commemorating the massacre was produced that changed the color of a victim's skin to black (which in Revere's original engraving was white) to emphasize Attucks' claimed martyrdom. In 1888, this monument was erected.

There was considerable controversy back in 1888 as to whether it was appropriate to honor the victims of the Boston Massacre, who many believed to be lawless in their actions and just a part of a drunken and angry mob. Newspaper articles in 1888 were just as apt to refer to "the affair in King Street" as they were to call it the "Boston Massacre."

The race and class of the victims—including Crispus Attucks, he of African-American and Native American descent, and Patrick Carr, an Irish immigrant—may have played a role in the controversy. The race of Attucks, in particular, was a hot topic in 1888, just a little more than two decades removed from the Civil War. In fact, even though all five victims are listed on the monument's pedestal, many newspaper accounts refer to the work as the "Crispus Attucks monument." According to a May 22, 1888, article in the Macon [Georgia] Telegraph about the memorial: "Special interest is given to it by the fact that one of the killed was a colored man named Crispus Attucks, who was glorified by the Abolitionists, for their purposes, as one of liberty's martyrs. No doubt the [Massachusetts] Historical Society and the [New England Historic] Genealogical Society are right when they say that these men were rioters, who got into a squabble with the soldiers, having no patriotic purpose, and not appreciating the historical importance of their disorderly behavior."

U.S. Senator George F. Hoar, quoted in an October 24, 1889, article in the Boston Globe, gave a passionate defense of the victims and wondered why their "lawless" activities were viewed differently than those who participated in The Boston Tea Party, with the underlying reasons being class and race: "They did no more than the members of the tea party did, or than Samuel Adams when he threatened the governor that unless the troops were removed the people would come down upon him. This threat by Sam Adams was as lawless as anything the populace did...Why is there such a hidden desire to attribute to these people in the humbler and perhaps lower walks of life base and rowdy motives? Perhaps it was justice to acquit the British soldiers tried for murder, but their acquittal did not condemn the people as a mob."