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329 years later, last Salem ‘witch’ pardoned

  • Published
    30th May, 2022
Context

Massachusetts lawmakers recently, formally, exonerated Elizabeth Johnson Jr. Her name has been cleared, 329 years after she was convicted of witchcraft in 1693 and sentenced to death at the height of the Salem Witch Trials.

Salem witch trials:

  • Salem witch trials, (June 1692–May 1693), in American history, a series of investigations and persecutions that caused 19 convicted “witches” to be hanged and many other suspects to be imprisoned in Salem Village in the Massachusetts Bay.
  • She was sentenced to death in 1693 but received a stay of execution along with a few other Massachusetts residents who had been charged. She was only 22 when she was sentenced.
  • Johnson was never executed, but neither was she officially pardoned like others wrongly accused of witchcraft.
  • In 1712, Johnson petitioned for exoneration of her charges but her request was never heard in court.
  • In 1957 the state of Massachusetts formally apologized for the trials.
  • It was not until 2001, however, that the last 11 of the convicted were fully exonerated.

Why now?

  • Lawmakers agreed to reconsider her case last year after a curious eighth-grade civics class at North Andover Middle School took up her cause and researched the legislative steps needed to clear her name.
  • Passing this legislation will be incredibly impactful on their understanding of how important it is to stand up for people who cannot advocate for themselves and how strong of a voice they actually have.
  • While modern world have come a long way since the horrors of the witch trials, women today still all too often find their rights challenged and concerns dismissed.
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