Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Stephen Prince


boxing, cultural imperialism, literature, policing, prisoner of war, privateer


Richard "King Dick" or "Big Dick" Crafus, Cephas, or Seaver(s) first attracted attention by his size, strength and the authority he exercised as leader of U.S. African American Prisoners of War in Britain during the War of 1812. After the War he was celebrated as a boxing pioneer, ceremonial King of Boston's black community and almost certainly auxiliary law officer. Very little has been known about his life, and much of that obscured by his black working-class status; his true standing within his own community remains mysterious. Yet paradoxically he's been made much of, in academic writing and fiction alike right up to the present day. Although his life resisted the reduction of himself and his people to irrelevance and invisibility, I argue that his most prominent role has been as a palimpsest, a used canvas or marked screen onto which scholars and fiction-writers alike, as intellectual workers, have projected their images of the place of Blacks, blackness and racialized Others in the Americas and the Americanized world, including Haiti and Arabia. This thesis attempts to reconstruct his life and interpret his myriad reconstructions, to illuminate both dominant white and less-accessible minority discourses. The particular characteristics inscribed into Big Dick's figure have helped define class and caste structures, public morality and the use of public space, and the working of the U.S. capitalist and cultural imperium in the marketplace of discourses.