Pardon the Salem ‘witch’ thanks to American teens

A woman convicted of witchcraft during the Salem Trials in the 17th century is expected to be pardoned thanks to a group of American schoolchildren who took part in the campaign.

Elizabeth Johnson Jr. was sentenced to death in 1693 when mass hysteria about witches swept through colonial Massachusetts.

She got a reprieve and died in her late 70s in the 1740s, but unlike other convicted witches, she was never acquitted.

When eighth graders at North Andover Prep School, near Salem, learned about her ordeal during a civics class, they decided to take action.

They did extensive research, studying primary sources to understand that Ms. Johnson was a target because she was unmarried and may have had a mental disability.

“Part of our introduction to the civics class in general is based on the idea of ​​identity, values, stereotypes, and civic discourse,” said teacher Carrie LaPery.

“So looking at the situation regarding Johnson through this lens helped students develop their perspective and empathy for her cause,” she added.

The 13- and 14-year-olds couldn’t understand how Johnson had been overlooked for a pardon: she had no immediate grandchildren pushing for it.

They began writing letters to local representatives and helped Senator Diana DiZulio draft a bill that would clear Johnson’s name.

Desoulio recently introduced the legislation, which is not expected to face any opposition.

More than 150 people, mostly women, including Johnson’s mother, were accused of witchcraft between 1692 and 1693 as Massachusetts was besieged by fear, paranoia, and superstition.

Thirty, including Johnson, were convicted, and 19 were hanged. According to Senator DeZulio, Massachusetts has formally acquitted the other 29.

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Salem Witch Memorial

“It is simply time to finish the job and clear the name Elizabeth Johnson Jr. once and for all,” she said.

Students receive updates as their bill moves through the legislature and enjoy the press coverage they get, including the New York Times.

“In light of the current events that have captured most people’s attention over the past year, this project may seem insignificant, but the children’s efforts have fixed a longstanding mistake, and I want them to be proud of that,” said Ms LaPierre.

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