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Tituba of Salem Village

Tituba of Salem Village

4.7 11
by Ann Petry

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A West Indies slave becomes entangled in the infamous witch trials of 17th-century Salem, Massachusetts

In 1688, Tituba and her husband, John, are sold to a Boston minister and sent to the strange world of Salem, Massachusetts. Rumors about witches are spreading like wildfire throughout the state, filling the heads of Salem’s superstitious,


A West Indies slave becomes entangled in the infamous witch trials of 17th-century Salem, Massachusetts

In 1688, Tituba and her husband, John, are sold to a Boston minister and sent to the strange world of Salem, Massachusetts. Rumors about witches are spreading like wildfire throughout the state, filling the heads of Salem’s superstitious, God-fearing residents. When the reverend’s suggestible young daughter, Betsey, starts having fits, the townsfolk declare it to be the devil’s work. Suspicion falls on Tituba, who can read fortunes and spin flax into thread so fine it seems like magic.
When suspicion turns to hatred, Tituba finds herself in grave danger. Will she be judged guilty of witchcraft and hanged? Loosely based on accounts of the period and trial transcripts, Ann Petry’s compelling historical novel draws readers into the hysteria of America’s deadly witch hunts.

Editorial Reviews

Madeleine L'Engle
The reader will be carried along by the sheer excitement of the story.
The New York Times

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Open Road Media Teen & Tween
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Tituba of Salem Village

By Ann Petry


Copyright © 1964 Ann Petry
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-1987-3


There was nothing to indicate to the slave Tituba that this morning in November would be unlike other mornings she had known in Bridgetown. The sun was out. The island of Barbados lay like a jewel sparkling in the sea. Its yellow-white coral-encrusted coast line blazed in the brilliant light. Tituba could see part of the shore line from the windows of Susanna Endicott's kitchen because the house sat on the edge of Carlisle Bay, just where it made a wide inward curve.

The slave John, Tituba's husband, had been fishing and he was showing her the red snappers he had caught. He had carried them into the kitchen in a big hand-woven basket. The basket was a deep dark brown, almost as dark as his hands, and the fish as he took them out of the basket were silvery by contrast. He had covered the fish with leaves to keep them cool.

"Good eating," John said, holding one of the big fish up for Tituba's inspection. He was a tall, powerfully built man with broad shoulders. He wore only a pair of white cotton trousers rolled up to the knee. He was barefooted. He leaned over the basket and then straightened up with a fluid, easy movement that made the muscles on his back ripple under the dark brown skin. He smiled, and his face which had looked dark and severe in repose was lightened and brightened by the smile.

Tituba took one of the big fish in her hands and laughed. "It feels like I was holding a long wiggle," she said and dropped the fish in the basket. She was short compared to John, but she held herself so erect that she looked taller than she really was. Her magnificent posture was due to the fact that she liked to carry baskets balanced on her head like the market women. Her hair was completely covered by a neatly wound white turban. She was wearing a pale blue cotton dress. The sleeves were rolled above her elbows revealing sturdy arms, the skin a smooth dark brown. She was barefooted, too.

They were so absorbed in their admiration of the fish that they both turned, startled, when Mistress Susanna Endicott came into the kitchen.

Tituba said, "You wanted something, mistress?" She had never known the mistress to be up so early in the morning. She glanced at her quickly and then away. The mistress's dark hair was disordered. She was still wearing her night clothes. She had the rumpled look of someone who has slept badly. Her eyelids were reddened and slightly swollen, suggesting that she had been crying.

"I — uh — I," she said and stopped. She patted her hair and then smoothed it with her hands. "I — uh — I should have told you yesterday — but — uh — I couldn't —" She paused, sighed, making a tremulous sound, a shivering kind of sound in the absolute stillness in the kitchen. "I needed money. I had to have money. And so — uh — I have sold you. Both of you."

Tituba made a sound of protest, "Ah ------" The beat of her heart kept increasing. She could feel it thumping, thumping inside her chest. Her mind filled with questions. To whom had the mistress sold them? She was a wealthy widow. Why had she so suddenly needed money? Tituba wondered why she had had no feeling of foreboding to indicate that something dreadful was going to happen.

John said, frowning, "Who bought us, mistress?"

"I couldn't help it," the mistress said. "I couldn't help it. I needed money right away."

"Who bought us, mistress?" he repeated.

"'Tis a minister. The Reverend Samuel Parris. He's been in trade here in Barbados. And he didn't do well. So he's leaving. He's going to be a minister in Boston in the Bay Colony."

"When did you sell us, mistress?" Tituba asked.


"Yesterday?" Tituba echoed the word, trying to think, to remember what yesterday was like. It was just another sunny, warm day. She had gone swimming in the inlet beyond the house. The water was so clear you could see the tiniest pebble way down at the bottom.

The mistress had been her usual self — nervous, excitable, restless. Tituba had belonged to Mistress Endicott ever since she was fourteen. She and John were quite accustomed to her ways. Tituba was nineteen when the mistress became a widow, rich enough to live as she pleased and own as many slaves as she pleased. When John's master died, the mistress bought John at Tituba's urging. Shortly afterwards she and John were married.

During the ten years of their married life, they had been very happy with the mistress. They were used to her. She was always giving parties or going to parties. She liked to stay up late at night and stay in bed until late in the day. She liked to play card games. She liked to have her fortune told. She'd had a gypsy woman teach Tituba how to tell fortunes with cards.

Tituba said hesitantly, "When are we to leave Barbados, mistress?"

Mistress Endicott averted her head, fumbled for, and found a small white handkerchief which she pressed against her nose. She crossed the kitchen, looked out at the bay. "This morning," she said in a muffled voice, "in a little while. Reverend Parris is leaving on the Blessing. It's in the bay. You can see its sails from the window."

Tituba thought, If I had known I would have run off into the hills with John. Later we could have gotten a boat and gone to another island and lived free in the hills and woods of some other island. She says our new master is going to be a minister in Boston in the Bay Colony. Where is Boston in the Bay Colony? She reached for John's hand and held it tight. At least they would be together in this strange land where they were going.

"Come," the mistress said. "I have something for both of you. Brought from England. Never worn. We have to hurry. Reverend Parris will be here soon."

They followed her into her bedroom. At the foot of the great bedstead there was a huge carved chest. The mistress opened it, then knelt down and took out a dark brown shawl, very soft, very thick, and handed it to Tituba. Then she reached farther into the chest and drew out a dark brown wool dress and a heavy cloak of deep dark green. "Wear the dress," she said, "and carry the cloak and the shawl over your arm."

She handed John a woolen cap, a greatcoat, and a pair of dark woolen pants and a jacket of the same dark, heavy woolen cloth. "Put these pants on. It will be cold." She reached farther down in the chest. "Here are good stout shoes for both of you. You must wear them. There will be snow in Boston. You can not go barefoot in the snow."

She fell to sobbing, still on her knees, her head resting on the edge of the great carved chest. "You were my jewels," she said, "my friends — my dearest friends."

"It is indeed a sorrowful thing," Tituba said, shaking her head. We were her jewels? she thought. She still wears diamonds on her soft white hands and golden bracelets on her wrists, her slender neck is encircled by a turquoise necklace. We were her friends?

Tituba put on the heavy woolen dress, and felt her skin prickle, and sweat break out on her body. She wound a clean, white linen turban around her head and then went to pack their belongings in a bundle. John came into the kitchen, wearing the dark wool pants. He was fingering the fabric as though he were trying to keep it away from his skin. He was carrying the jacket and the greatcoat.

He was ready sooner than she had expected. She had planned to spend a few quiet moments sitting in the kitchen. She wanted to impress it on her memory — the big fireplace, the black iron cooking pots, the high ceiling, and the view of the bay like a part of the kitchen, and a glimpse of the little inlet where she went swimming early in the morning. She could ease her feet, too, as she sat — her feet pained in the shoes. She tucked the thunderstone into the front of her dress. It was wrapped in layers and layers of cloth just as it was when it was given to her by a very old man way up in the hills. She had begun to tie up the bundle she was going to carry when the mistress came into the kitchen with the Reverend Samuel Parris.

They said good-bye to the mistress quickly, and then she and John walked out of the house with the new master. Tituba felt herself short beside him, and because his skin was so white and unhealthy looking — no tinge of pink to suggest blood flowed in his veins — she felt her own skin to be very dark.

He was tall and thin and dressed in black clothes. He spoke abruptly, his manner as hurried as his speech. He headed towards the dock, walking fast. He said his wife was sickly and that she had already boarded the ship, the brig Blessing, and that they would get aboard now immediately because the ship was to sail within two hours if not before. All signs were propitious; the weather was clear; there was little or no wind.

Before they got on the ship, they would pray for a safe passage. To her astonishment, he knelt right down on the dock and gestured to them to kneel, too. He began to pray in a loud harsh voice. People turned and stared at him, and stared at her and at John. She thought how foolish they must look, down on their knees, in the middle of all the hustle and bustle caused by the loading and unloading of ships, the comings and goings of sailors and slaves and traders. It was hot in the sun. Her feet hurt in the heavy shoes. She had the woolen shawl and the heavy cloak over one arm, and that arm was drenched with sweat — she could feel sweat pouring down her body. She looked at John, and his face and forehead were wet with sweat.

Finally the master said, "Amen," and stood up.

A sailor standing nearby said, "Amen," in a loud voice, and when the master turned to look at him, he added, "Thank God, Parson, it's finally and at last 'Amen.' Your prayer was overlong. We've a use for that bit of dock you were using as a prayer rug."

The master glared at the sailor and said sternly, "You are an impious young man." Then he turned to Tituba and said, "You weren't paying attention."

"No, master," she said calmly. "This is not our religion."

He said, "You're not Christians?"

"Yes, master. We are Christians, but we have our own religion — we belong to the Church of England."

"This will never do, never do," he said. "Heathens — heathens — come along."

Once they were aboard the Blessing he hurried them to the captain's cabin, where he borrowed a Bible, got a bowl of water, and said a prayer over the water.

"What's your last name?" he asked.

"We have no last name, master," John said.

"You have to have a last name. You're from Barbados, and it's part of the West Indies — so — well — your last name will be Indian. John Indian and Tituba Indian."

In spite of John's protests, he baptized them and wrote their names down in the back of the ship's Bible and the date, November 10, 1688. Then he wanted to know if they were married.

John said, "Yes, master. We were married in Mistress Susanna Endicott's church in Bridgetown. Ten years ago. She belongs to the Church of England and so do we — at least we did."

The master said he was certain it wasn't a proper marriage service. He beckoned to them to come outside with him. He married them again while they stood on the deck in the hot sun.

When he finished, Tituba backed away from him because the shadow of this tall thin man fell slantways over her body, and she thought it boded ill for her and John to start out this way with the master's shadow over them, blotting out the sun.

It always seemed to her afterwards that one moment she had seen the dock in Bridgetown — all brilliant sunlight, blue water, blue sky, and warm air — and the town lying behind it — the town filled with life, houses and shops and warehouses — and then everything vanished, and there was nothing to be seen but water. The sky was gray, and the water was a darker, more ominous gray, and the air kept getting colder and colder.

The island didn't vanish suddenly. It was simply that she went to look after her new mistress, who was sick, and by the time she finished making her as comfortable as she could, they were far out to sea, and there was nothing to be seen but the ocean, no land, no other ship.

She nursed this new mistress as best she could. She gave her water, made a thin gruel which she fed her from a spoon whenever she could persuade her to sip some of it. She wiped her face and her hands, and wondered what was wrong with her — she was so thin and so white and sad-looking, and she coughed so much.

Betsey Parris, the master's five-year-old daughter, and Abigail Williams, his eight-year-old niece, Tituba, John, and the master were all assigned to the same small cabin. It was cold and damp in the cabin. The air was foul. Tituba decided she had never been so miserable in her entire life. Sometimes they ran into storms, and she thought the brig would split in two from the force of the waves and the sails would split along with the brig.

Whenever the boat rocked violently, the master got down on his knees, motioned to Tituba and the children to follow his example, and then lifted his voice loudly in prayer. He had told Tituba that she must keep her eyes closed when he prayed, that she was to pray with him — silently, of course — her mind and her thoughts lifted in silent supplication to the Lord. Quite often Tituba opened her eyes wide enough to be able to see the outline of the thin body of the sick woman, lying in the bunk under a blanket; the two children with hands raised, palms together, pointing upward toward heaven; and the master with his eyes tightly closed as he lifted his harsh voice in prayer. She noticed that though Betsey kept her eyes tightly shut, Abigail didn't — sometimes she smiled, and once she took to coughing so that the master frowned and ended his prayer abruptly.

Even when the sun was out, the water was rough and the air was bitterly cold. Each day it got colder. Finally she wrapped Mistress Endicott's thick, soft shawl tight around her head and shoulders, held it close to her shivering body. It was just as though she were sitting in the sun in the courtyard of the house in Bridgetown, warm in the sun, no chill wind, no draughts. The smaller of the two girls, Betsey Parris, seemed to feel the cold much worse than her cousin Abigail. Tituba often sat in the cabin with little Betsey on her lap, the soft shawl warming both of them. Betsey would burrow under the shawl, letting it cover her face, until only the yellow hair was visible. She was a fragile child, delicately boned, very thin. She had pale blue eyes, the soft, slow-moving eyes of a dreamer.

Abigail Williams was taller, sturdier. Her eyes were bright blue; the expression was alert, lively. Whenever she saw Betsey snuggled under Tituba's shawl, she frowned and tried to find an unfinished task for Betsey.

Tituba quickly became aware that there was a difference in the way the master treated the children. At first, she thought it was because Abigail was the oldest and the strongest, and therefore was naturally expected to do more than the younger child. But the master made it quite clear that the difference in treatment stemmed from the fact that bright-eyed Abigail was his wife's orphaned niece whereas Betsey was his daughter, his only child.

He always referred to Betsey as "my little daughter" and to Abigail as "my wife's orphan niece." He reminded Abigail of her position in the family by saying, "You must work hard at your tasks so that you do not become a burden to us, Abigail." Sometimes he said, "You must practice being grateful, Abigail. Remember you are an orphan."

John helped the sailors keep the ship clean, helped the man who did the cooking. Tituba thought this an utter waste of time, to have a man who prepared the food. The result did not suggest that anyone had prepared it. Day after day they ate the same lumpy corn porridge, the same tough pieces of salt beef. This diet was varied by the addition of partly freshened salt codfish.

John brought bits of news. He said they were the only passengers. "They say our new master came to the island to trade. He lost almost everything he had because two ships carrying some of his goods went down at sea. They say he's writing sermons. That's why he writes so much."


Excerpted from Tituba of Salem Village by Ann Petry. Copyright © 1964 Ann Petry. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Ann Petry (1908–1997) is best known for her novel The Street (1946), which sold over one million copies—an unheard of feat for the work of a female African American author at the time. Born in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, Petry was the youngest of three children. She had dreamed of becoming a writer ever since her high school English teacher praised her work. However, at the behest of her family, she earned a degree from the Connecticut College of Pharmacy in 1931 and began working in the family business. In 1938, she married George D. Petry and moved to Harlem in New York City. There, she wrote articles for newspapers such at the People’s Voice and the Amsterdam News, and published stories in the Crisis. She also worked for an after-school program at PS 10 in Harlem. It was her experiences living in Harlem that inspired The Street.

In 1947, Petry moved back to Old Saybrook, where she continued to write for children as well as adults. Her books for young readers include the biography Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad (1955), and the historical novel Tituba of Salem Village (1955). Her works for adults include Country Place (1947), The Narrows (1953), and Miss Muriel and Other Stories (1971).

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Tituba of Salem Village 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book starts on a normal day Barbados. The two slaves, Tituba and her husband, John are talking in the kitchen early in the morning. Suddenly, their mistress, Susanna Endicott barges in looking anxious and distorted. She informs them that she sold them the other day. Their new master is a minister and he turns out to be strict and vile. His wife is an invalid and he has a daughter and a niece with him. They take a boat to Boston where they spend the winter, but after a couple months, the minister cannot find a job in Boston that will meet his requirements. He moves to Massachusetts where Salem village makes him their minister. Tituba and John settle in and the minister is usually gone which is a good thing. In Salem the people are very religious and some talk of witchcraft, but Tituba pays them no mind. It¿s not until the little girls of the village start having fits and accuse two others and Tituba of torturing them with made up things. Tituba is brought to trial because she has a cat that she talks to, she can read fortunes with cards, and her garden is more bounteous than others. The Girls had also made a witch cake and used other superstitious beliefs to assure the citizens of Salem that Tituba and two others are witches. Will Tituba survive, go to jail, be hanged, or will all be well. Read Tituba of Salem Village to find out.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great read in its own right, this story is also an awesome adjunct to Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible' which is a standard in high school and college literature curricula. The author, Ann Petry, deftly presents a fresh perspective of the Salem WItch Trials and the irrational hysteria of the Puritans in the 1690s. The story brings the characters to life in a very real and human way--very believable. The brief historical notes at the story's end help the reader ground the fiction with the facts. I found myself, however, often wishing that someone would have called Abigail's bluff or even brought her histrionic antics to the forefront. Even so, Petry stayed true to history on that account. The fact that Master Parris, Abigail, and the others got away with so much lying and acting only underscores just how baffling, frustrating, and shameful that portion of our nation's history is. Also good reading of that historical era with comparable reading level is Elizabeth George Speare's Newbery Winner The Witch of Blackbird Pond.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved the story line and the drama and emotions ran high in the book. Of course, the ending wasn't full with detail, so it wasn't exaclty good.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was taken back into the year 1692, with Tituba and I saw everything as it was happening. I have read other pieces involving the Salem Witch Trials and this account was one of the best.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was great. I couldnt stop reading it. Once i started reading i was get the hang of the book and towards the end you just cant put the book down, it just drags you towards reading it. I highly recommend the book. The only thing which i didn't like was how the story ended, not with full details.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a marvelius book written by Anne Petry. Petry does a wonderful job creating images in the mind's eye, and keeps the reader hooked through out the entire book. Taking place in 1692 mainly in Salem Mass. it tells the story of the Salem witch trials and the devistating time. Full of action, and suspence any young reader interested in a great book, or the specific topic, of the trials will enjoy and love this book:)
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I first picked up this book it was just a book for English class. As I started reading I began to like it. As I started to finish the book it was one of the best I ever read and I recommend this book to just about everyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i am impressed by Ann Petry's book Tituba of Salem Village. When i first got it, i thought 'oh, just another stupid book i have to read for school.' But it wasn't that way at all! When i first started to read it, it was boring but once i passed the fourth chapter, it got better and better. i read this book in two days because once i actually read further into the book i didn't want to put it down. Normally i'm not one to read books-in fact, i hate reading. But after reading this book i changed my mind.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It was filled with suspense, drama, and emotion. It takes you back to the times of the Samel Witch Trials of 1692. If you are interested in the Salem Trials, then you have to read this book.
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