The Boston Massacre

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 12235

Some things never change. Throughout history, mobs and demonstrations have turned violent, but few actually cause wars. Learn about the controversial shot that eventually led to the Revolutionary War!


United States

learning style
personality style
Lion, Beaver
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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How has the United States responded to attacks on its citizens on U.S. soil, either by foreigners or its own citizens?

How do you think the colonists would have responded to a British soldier killing an American colonist on American soil?

Imagine you are a British colonist living in America in 1770.

You are unhappy about many of the new taxes you have been forced to pay, and have been forced to allow British soldiers to live in your home. Then, you learn British soldiers have killed a group of colonists. How would this make you feel? How would it enhance the feelings you were already having towards Great Britain?

This scenario was a reality in Boston, Massachusetts, in March 1770. Tensions throughout the colonies were high because of the Townshend Acts.

One day, a group of school-aged boys began protesting outside the shop of a man who remained loyal to the British even though the British issued the taxes in the colonies. People who remained loyal to the British were called Loyalists. The crowd continued to grow in size and aggression. The Loyalist fired shots into the crowd to try to scare them off. Unfortunately, one of the young boys, Christopher Seider, was shot and killed.

The death of a young boy in Boston sent things from bad to much worse. On the night of March 5, 1770, just a few days after Seider was killed, a group of colonists began harassing a small group of British soldiers. They began shouting names and throwing rocks and snowballs. The crowd of colonists began to grow and became increasingly more hostile towards the soldiers. The British soldiers were frightened. Suddenly, a British soldier fired a shot into the crowd, causing other soldiers to fire, too. The first shot fired by the British soldier remains a controversy because no one was sure whether or not the British officer actually gave an order to fire or if the soldier fired on his own.

During the event that became known as the Boston Massacre, five colonists were killed and six were injured. The event made Boston one of the most hostile regions in all of the colonies because it increased tension between the colonists and the British. Boston would remain a place of major conflict and tension for more than five years, and this tension would lead to other events, such as the Boston Tea Party and the Intolerable Acts (these events will be discussed in detail in the next two Related Lessons of this series), that directly contributed to the start of the Revolutionary War.

To learn more about what caused the Boston Massacre, watch History Brief: The Boston Massacre (Reading Through History, below). As you watch the video, write down any important facts or information you hear. You will be able to use the notes you take for an activity in the Got It? section:

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When you have finished watching the video, discuss why the colonists responded by rioting the way they did in Boston.

  • Why do you think the British soldiers fired?
  • What do you think the response was throughout the colonies when they learned about the events in Boston?

When you have finished discussing these questions, move on to the Got It? section to take a short quiz that will allow you to review what you have learned.

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