Final sentence cleared after 329 years in Salem Witch Trials

Author: Yuvi August 1, 2022 Final sentence cleared after 329 years in Salem Witch Trials

Elizabeth Johnson Jr. is – officially – not a witch.

As of last week, the Andover, Mass., woman, who confessed to practicing witchcraft during the Salem witch trials, was the only remaining person convicted during the trials whose name was not cleared.

Although he was sentenced to death in 1693, after he and more than 20 members of his extended family faced similar charges, he was granted a respite and avoided the death penalty.

Thursday’s acquittal comes 329 years after his conviction, inside a $53 billion state budget signed by the government’s Charlie Baker. It was the product of a three-year lobbying effort by a civic teacher and her eighth grader, as well as a state senator, who helped champion the cause.

“I’m excited and relieved, but I’m disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to talk to the kids about it,” North Andover Middle School teacher Carrie Lapierre said in an interview on Saturday. . Vacation. “It’s been such a big project,” said Ms Lapierre. “We called her EJJ, all the kids and me. She became one of our worlds in a sense.”

Only the broad profile of Ms Johnson’s life is known. Ms Lapierre said she was 22 when the accused was mentally handicapped and had never married or had children, factors that could have made a woman a target in trial.

The governor of Massachusetts granted death relief to Ms Johnson at the time, and she died in 1747 at the age of 77. But unlike others convicted at trial, Ms Johnson had no known descendants who could fight to clear her. Name. Previous attempts to acquit those convicted of witchcraft ignored Ms Johnson, perhaps due to administrative confusion, historians said: Her mother, who had the same name, was also convicted, but was acquitted earlier. was given.

Ms Lapierre said the effort to remove Ms Johnson’s name was a dream project for an eighth grade civics class. This allowed him to teach students about research methods, including the use of primary sources; the process by which a bill becomes law; And ways to contact state MPs. The project also taught students the value of perseverance: After an intense letter-writing campaign, the bill to exonerate Ms. Johnson was essentially dead. As the students turned their efforts to lobby the governor for a pardon, their state senator Diana Dizoglio added an amendment to the budget bill, reviving the waiver effort.

“These students have set an incredible example of the power of advocacy and speaking up for others who don’t have a voice,” Ms Dizoglio, a Democrat whose district includes North Andover, said in an interview.

According to historians, at least 172 people from Salem and surrounding cities, including what is now northern Andover, were accused of witchcraft in 1692, as part of an investigation by Puritans rooted in paranoia. .

Emerson W. Baker, Salem State University history professor and author of “A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience,” said there were many reasons why innocent people would confess to witchcraft. Many wanted to avoid persecution, or even believed that perhaps he might actually be a witch and did not know it, the result of pressure campaigns by religious ministers and even family members.

“At what point does she say,” asked Mr. Baker, “‘for the good of the community, should I perhaps confess? I don’t think I’m a witch, but maybe I had some bad thoughts on my mind and I shouldn’t have them. Should have.'” This would have been a logical thought process for a society that widely believed in the existence of witches, he said.

Another common reason for confession, Professor Baker said, was to survive. By the summer of 1692 it became clear that those who pleaded not guilty were quickly prosecuted, convicted and hanged, while those who pleaded guilty seemed to have met that gruesome fate. Survived: All 19 people killed in Salem pleaded not guilty, while none of them pleaded guilty. 55 Whoever confessed was put to death, he said.

Professor Baker said he was delighted to see Ms Johnson’s name cleared. He said the allegations against him and his family would have ruined his life and reputation.

“All through the government and the people of Massachusetts Bay to Elizabeth and her family,” he said, acquitting her “the least we can do.”

Author: Yuvi

My name is Yuvi, I work as Sub Editor at

1 August, 2022, 2:27 am

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