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Boston Massacre Reboot Project at Artists For Humanity

The first project at the new printmaking facility at Artists For Humanity in South Boston will commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Boston Massacre perpetrated in King Street. Three weeks after the March 5th massacre in 1770, Paul Revere engraved and printed from a copper plate an image that has become a lasting legacy of Americas’ freedom from British rule.

After numerous printings of the copper plate, the latest occurring in 2003 by the Massachusetts Historical Society, the engraved image is now retired for posterity, gleaming under glass at the Archive Museum at Columbia Point in Boston. While it is true that the images portrayed in the print served as a rallying cry for the aggrieved colonists, many objects depicted in the scene are considered propaganda. Witness testimony procured through legal documents and diaries refute some of the facts depicted in the original image. Revere’s embellishments throughout areas in the print created a bias designed to initiate rebellion.

One of the most important facts about the incident on King Street is the omission of the image of Crispus Attucks. Attucks, born in 1723, was a former slave from Framingham, Massachusetts who worked as a rope-maker in the shipyards of Boston. Attucks found himself caught up in the melee during the night of March 5th 1770, and became one of the colonists killed by British troops, and the first person of color to die for American Independence.

The Boston Massacre Reboot project at AFH follows the continuum of art traveling through life experiences, the humanist trove. The path of the activist artist can bring awareness to the human condition and elevate social consciousness. Exploration into the printing of the Massacre print, combined with an awareness of the current state of mainstream politics led me to address the strained and unresolved racial component in American history.

At the time of the Boston Massacre in 1770, slavery was firmly embedded in colonial America. Revere’s avoidance of adding Crispus Attucks to the original composition must have been more than just an oversight. The notion that a former slave could lead a major revolt for American independence was impalpable until well into the next century when images sympathetic to abolishment of slavery appeared as primary figures. As printmaker and activist, importing the image of Crispus Attucks into the original Boston massacre print seemed a just compromise and fair representation of the facts, becoming a clear example of the way art can advocate for a cause.
Relevant research areas: North America, 18th Century, Engraving

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