Bill Richmond was born a slave in 1763 at Cuckold’s Town (now Richmondtown), Staten Island, New York.
Richmond was the servant of Lord Percy, the Duke of Northumberland, during the American Revolutionary War.
The Duke was born Hugh Smithson and is also famous as the father of an illegitimate son (James Smithson) born secretly in Paris during 1765.
This son is famed for having made the founding bequest and provided the name for our Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C..
Nathan Hale hanging
According to the standards of the time, spies were hanged as illegal combatants.
On the morning of September 22, 1776, the 21 year old Nathan Hale was marched along Post Road to the Park of Artillery, which was next to a public house called the Dove Tavern (at modern day 66th Street and Third Avenue), and hanged.
The 13 year old Bill Richmond was reportedly one of the hangmen, “his responsibility being that of fastening the rope to a strong tree branch and securing the knot and noose.”
By all accounts, Nathan Hale comported himself eloquently before the hanging.
Over the years, there has been some speculation as to whether he specifically uttered the famous line:
“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”
Lord Percy then took African American slave Bill Richmond with him back to England in 1777.
Later, Bill Richmond was released from slavery and sent to school in Yorkshire and apprenticed to a cabinet maker in York.
However, he made a name for himself as a boxer.
‘The Black Terror’
Freed slave Bill Richmond received no boxing tutoring and was entirely self-taught.
By today’s standards, Richmond, who weighed between 140 and 147 pounds, would have been a welterweight, and yet he often fought men who weighed 4 to 5 stone’s heavier than himself.
Richmond had excellent footwork and quick hands, which enabled him to avoid the big punches and outwork bigger fighters (now known as the bob and weave technique).
This was demonstrated in Richmond’s famous fight against British hero and world champion Tom Cribb.
Cribb was unable to land a punch in the early rounds.
However, Cribb’s superior weight and power eventually caught up with Bill Richmond, who narrowly lost in the 60th round.
After that boxing match, Richmond became known as ‘The Black Terror.’
Bill Richmond was also a friend and coach of Tom Molineaux, another freed slave who took up boxing in England and fought Tom Cribb twice for the title of world champion.
After his retirement from boxing, Bill Richmond bought the Horse and Dolphin pub in Leicester Square and set up a boxing academy.
He died at his home in London, England in 1829.