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Who Were the Accused Witches of Salem?: And Other Questions about the Witchcraft Trials

Overview

In June 1692, a jury in Salem, Massachusetts, found Bridget Bishop guilty of performing witchcraft. The only evidence against her was villagers' testimony. As punishment she was publicly hanged. Meanwhile, local girls had been behaving oddly for months. They cried out of being pinched or choked by a witch's spirit. The girls accused neighbors, outcasts, and respected community members of tormenting them. As fear spread through Salem, jails filled with the accused. In the end, nineteen people were hanged for ...

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Overview

In June 1692, a jury in Salem, Massachusetts, found Bridget Bishop guilty of performing witchcraft. The only evidence against her was villagers' testimony. As punishment she was publicly hanged. Meanwhile, local girls had been behaving oddly for months. They cried out of being pinched or choked by a witch's spirit. The girls accused neighbors, outcasts, and respected community members of tormenting them. As fear spread through Salem, jails filled with the accused. In the end, nineteen people were hanged for witchcraft in one of the darkest moments in U.S. history.

But what led to this terrifying event?
Who was likely to be accused?
Why did the witchcraft fever finally come to an end?

Discover the facts about the Salem Witchcraft Trials and the mark they left on the U.S. justice system.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Kris Sauer
Hysterical, sick young girls accusing women in the community of witchcraft; a town at odds with each other over politics and religion; religious fervor mixed with genuine fear. The story of the Salem witch trials could take so many angles: a morality play, the impact of mob rule, the part hysteria and rumor can play on a small community, the role of the courts in early American history. This excellent non-fiction book tells readers in grades four to six about this frightening time in America's early history. Using a journalistic who-what-when-where-why-how approach, the author tackles what can be a very difficult topic. Starting with a brief description of Puritan life in 1600s Salem, Massachusetts, the text then begins addressing the how and why such a travesty of justice could have occurred. Who was the first person accused of being a witch? Where were the three accused witches taken for questioning? When did the first witch trial take place? How many people were put to death during the witch trials? Why did Samuel Parris leave Salem? How do we know about the Salem witch trials? This last question deals with the topic of primary sources, an important element in any nonfiction research. Sidebars throughout help define new words such as Puritan and evidence as well as addressing other important questions such as, "What caused the girls to accuse so many people?" Paintings and pictures of primary documents support the text throughout. The book also includes a table of contents, timeline, source notes, index, bibliography, and a suggested list of websites and additional resources. Part of an eighteen-title series, "Six Questions of American History," and written a reading level 5, this would be a good complement to any American history course. Reviewer: Kris Sauer
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—This accessible guide is attractively designed and concisely written. Courtroom terms such as "evidence," "jury," and "innocent" are briefly defined. Chapters conclude and set up the following chapter with who/what/where questions, such as "Who was the first person accused of being a witch?" and "When did the first witch trial take place?" Several nuggets of information take this beyond a recitation of facts and figures about the trials. Young women's role in Puritan society is discussed in relation to the trials, and the aftermath of the trials, including the institution of a day of remembrance, a public apology, reparations to victims, and overturning of guilty verdicts, concludes the text. Waxman writes in a conversational tone that will engage readers. Further questions and answers are contained in text boxes, while contemporary illustrations and examples of primary sources are featured throughout the text. Students are encouraged to write an article about the witchcraft trials using the six who/what/when/where/why/how questions. Several images are cleverly presented as if appearing on a smartphone or other modern electronic device, which are effective attention-getters. A solid, informative title.—Jennifer Schultz, Fauquier County Public Library, Warrenton, VA
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