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Commemorating Crispus Attucks: Visual Memory and the Representations of the Boston Massacre, 1770-1857

Karsten Fitz
Amerikastudien / American Studies
Vol. 50, No. 3, Early American Visual Culture (2005), pp. 463-484
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41158169
Page Count: 22
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Commemorating Crispus Attucks: Visual Memory and the Representations of the Boston Massacre, 1770-1857
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Abstract

This article examines visual representations of the 'Boston Massacre' in their historical contexts and their treatment of the African American patriot Crispus Attucks. As a case study of prominent images by Paul Revere, John Singleton Copley, William C. Nell, William Champney, and Alonzo Chappel, it tackles the erasure, the marginalization, and the re-emergence of the black presence in these illustrations. These images will be dealt with as history paintings that provide us with crucial interpretations of the event (which all, separately, reflect existing beliefs of their times). The fact that four differing versions of this event (excluding Copley's) were circulated at the same time suggests how prominent visual images of the Boston Massacre had become (for the construction of American national and cultural identities) by the mid-nineteenth century, how highly contested these images were, and how deeply America was split on the eve of the Civil War over the question of slavery.

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