artistic depiction of salem witch trials
Twenty people were executed during the Salem Witch Trials.

A Massachusetts woman may finally be exonerated of a crime she didn’t commit – some 300 years later.

Elizabeth Johnson Jr. was one of many convicted of witchcraft in 1693 and sentenced to death. Fortunately, she avoided hanging from the gallows due to intervention from Massachusetts Governor William Phips, but she was never formally exonerated of her crimes.

A committee decades later cleared the names of several of the accused, and in the centuries since dozens more have been exonerated, but for a variety of bureaucratic reasons Elizabeth Johnson Jr. name was never formally cleared.

Now, an eighth-grade civics class is leading the charge on clearing her name and fully exonerating her 328 years later.

The Salem Witch Trials

Civics teacher Carrie LaPierre’s civics class at North Andover Middle School is to credit for the potential pardon. They spent a great deal of time both researching Johnson as well as the steps it would take to fully exonerate her in a court of law. They’ve got an ally on their side: State Sen. Diana DiZoglio, who formally introduced legislation that would officially wipe Johnson’s record clean.

It’s important work, says DiZoglio. “We will never be able to change what happened to these victims,” she stated, “but at the very least, we can set the record straight.”

Elizabeth Johnson Jr. is one of if not the last accused witches of the Salem Witch Trials who’s still not been fully exonerated.

The Salem Witch Trials began in March 1692, when two girls accused three women of being witches, kicking off a Puritan hysteria that dominated the small Massachusetts village of Salem for about a year. Accused of everything from cavorting with the devil to bewitching children, 150+ were accused of some form of witchcraft, and those misfortunate enough to stand trial found themselves in a kangaroo court where their guilt was all but assured on coerced confessions. Those who stood their ground fared no better; One man, Giles Corey, refused to confess even while being pressed to death by giant stones.

In all, twenty people, most of them middle-aged women, were put to death, and up to 13 more died in prison awaiting trial.

Justice for All… Eventually

Throughout the following decades, many of the convicted and accused were exonerated. In 1711, Massachusetts Governor Joseph Dudley signed a document that fully exonerated many of the women and gave them reparations, but Elizabeth Johnson Jr. was not included because she didn’t formally petition the courts.

In the following centuries, pretty much every victim’s name has been cleared, except for one. Perhaps because she didn’t have any direct descendants to legally pursue her exoneration, Elizabeth Johnson Jr.’s been left out of every round of exonerations in the 300 years since the Salem Witch Trials. Now, with legislation in motion, it seems likely that the final victim of this dark chapter in American history can finally be exonerated.

The teacher leading the charge on clearing Johnson’s name is proud of her students. She says some questioned the wisdom of trying to get justice for a single woman who’s been dead for centuries in the midst of a global pandemic. But she says for her students, “It’s important that in some small way we could do this one thing.” It was a way to make positive change in their own community in a time when so many people feel so helpless.

What do you think? 

59 comments

  1. Robert Hauck, MD, FAAP's Avatar Robert Hauck, MD, FAAP

    Yes, it's been 300+ years. And it involves only one victim. And neither she nor her heirs can appreciate what's being done. But look at the unbelievable lessons learned by those students! Compassion. Learning political and social action. An awareness of contemporary "witch hunt" equivalents. Kudos to those students and their teacher and everyone who supports their project. Minister Robert in Shoreline WA

    1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

      I was just wondering what to say to all those First native Canadians, and their relatives and the relatives who would never be, murdered in those state and Catholic schools? Here's one for the unfortunate white girl who was suffering mental malaise from a virus?

  1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

    Oh that's good, she's finally exonerated then. I'm sure she feels much better about that then. One down, many thousands to go. It wasn't those Christians by any chance was it? Just askin' for a modern day witch.

    Any thoughts Carl?

    🦁♥️

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Sir Lionheart, that one is too far out in left field for me to waste my time on, good buddy. And he's not the only one addressing this article who seems totally lost, and clueless.

      1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

        Many of those burned as witches really weren't, but some really were. I don't know if three hundred years is long enough for the soul of someone who has suffered through such an agonizing death, torture, and public humiliation to recover and move on to another incarnation (I suppose it varies among individuals), but am quite sure what goes in this dimension is of no concern to most of those in the next, except for the egregory ; angels, and other guardians.

  1. Jim D.'s Avatar Jim D.

    Ugh! Do we have to waste time with this? Do we need to waste taxpayer dollars to exonerate someone who has been dead for three centuries? Can we just admit it was stupid to put people to death who were suspected of being witches? Can we now all agree that witches (or followers of Wicca) , like any other group of people (with the exception of hard core criminals), are for the most part harmless?

    While the answers for these questions are seemingly rhetorical, here are the answers for those who aren't sure: No, no, yes, yes.

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      And how long do they claim that Christ has been dead, Jim? They're still wasting money on that too, you know.

      1. Jim D.'s Avatar Jim D.

        It's one thing when you choose to waste your time and your money by voluntarily contributing to a religious organization. You're not forced to do that. However, there is no court that is hearing the wrongful death case of Jesus Christ. Therefore your forcefully taken tax dollars are not being wasted (at least not on that).

      2. Pamela Kay Waters's Avatar Pamela Kay Waters

        Hallelujah

      3. Pamela Kay Waters's Avatar Pamela Kay Waters

        A lot of money. look at these churches these days.

    2. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

      It was still the dark ages, people didn't know you could get a virus that makes you psychotic and an extreme personality disorder.

      Whereas today we know better, we make them President. Makes for a great front man.

    3. Kiltedbiker's Avatar Kiltedbiker

      Taxpayer dollars were wasted to accuse, jail, and prosecute her. So, yes. The wheels of justice do indeed turn slowly, but turn they must. Those trials make a mockery of the judicial system and it must be demonstrated that it is a system of checks and balances which is accountable.

  1. Angel's Avatar Angel

    I'm pretty sure Lucifer came up with Christianity. Christians killing off other Christians...I mean c'mon, it's brilliant (for an evil underloard). Although we know the Witch Trials have never truly ended, they are just not allowed to kill anyone in the United States anymore...

    1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

      Not just other Christians, Angel...

      Through the ages unto this very day, Christians have been most generous practicing their equal opportunity murders on those from every walk of life, and billions have much to be grateful for in hastily receiving the magnanimous gift of being so graciously delivered unto their Maker, to say nothing of the added trimmings of being butchered, burned, raped, robbed, imprisoned, brutalized, and hounded at every opportunity along the way, the better to appreciate the blissful blessings of the afterlife, lovingly sent there by those magnanimously willing to sacrifice themselves by remaining here in the temporal plane rather than sharing in the Golden Light to which they have lovingly sent their victims...and demonstrating the very height of human moral achievements, by performing their great deeds with a virtual absence of discrimination...they do it to everyone, regardless of race, culture, creed, sexual this or gender that...everyone, in total equal treatment, no discrimination at all.

    2. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Lucifer started out being the ancient Greek god of light, and still is, as far as many of us are concerned. That was just something else those evil, early christian leaders twisted around, to exalt themselves, and rebuke Paganism.

    3. Jack Gerber's Avatar Jack Gerber

      That is a BRILLIANT comment. Thank you.

    4. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      And I've heard that the crucifixions of Jesus wannabes have started back up too, Angel.

    5. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

      Angel: No, that is the brilliance of Lucifer's invention...it's the modern age, now EVERYONE is a witch and must be burned. Genius.

  1. Br'er George's Avatar Br'er George

    And how do you KNOW she's a witch?

    She LOOKS like one!

    https://youtu.be/zrzMhU_4m-g

  1. Nikki Tate- Coates's Avatar Nikki Tate- Coates

    I can't believe it took over 300 years! May the Lord & Lady rest her blessed soul.

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    And why would anyone want to become a Christian, Jonathan? Why would it even cross their minds, unless someone deceptively told them something good about it? I think a lot of people in this nation are just scared of not being christians, or alleging to be. Then again, you might be one of them. Personally, I don't care what anyone believes in, or if they believe in anything at all. I'm just glad I believe what I believe, and know it's not christianity. And that doesn't make me any less of an American, who's proud to be one, and also proud to be Pagan, Wiccan, and a Witch. Blessed be!

  1. Nicholas J Page's Avatar Nicholas J Page

    I thought Witches are just purely a myth.What happened 300 years ago was supposed to have happened Who says there are still records after all this time.Surely the records will have perished after all.

    1. Catherine Ohrin-Greipp's Avatar Catherine Ohrin-Greipp

      No, the records are stored in the Salem MA Museum. Guess you've never been there.

      1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

        Yes Catherine, England to Salem is too long of a trip for many, but then again Witchcraft didn't get started in the United States., and still flourishes in the UK. I wonder if he's heard of the ancient British Isles, or the Celts. I thought all British people who had lived atleast a half century, must know more about it than that. Ofcourse, there are shut-ins, who remain ignorant.

    2. Cindy L Edgar's Avatar Cindy L Edgar

      That way the second you're funny I'm a witch and I'm not from a mysterious believe or anything like that my ancestors were witches so you must have a problem or you don't believe in witches I hate to burst your bubble I'm actually a Pagan High Priestess ordained minister

      1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

        I too am a Witch, and have been officially ever since my self dedication to Wicca on January 1, 1980, following my year and a day of training by my mentor, a natural hereditary Witch, and a Gypsy, whose mundane name was Herbert Clifton Woods (Uz). He is now one of my spirit guides. I am a natural eclectic solitairy, and have been a Witch in some of my previous lives, including one when I was tied to and burned to a stake, when I was a woman of about 125 years old, believe it or not. Nicholas. I could care less.

        1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

          Well heck Carl, I think you must have made some rounds, would love to hear some of the stories you've acquired.

  1. Jim D.'s Avatar Jim D.

    And before anyone jumps all over me for criticizing the efforts of this teacher and her students, I applaud them for the effort but wish they could have put that effort into helping those still among the living in their community.

  1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

    Identify witches was very profitable for Christians the the church. The witches belongings after death were given the church and the person who identified the person as a witch.

  1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher

    IS ANY of YOU GUYs M A R R I E D ???

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Iv we got some ex-wives you can have if you need one, John Maher.

  1. William Dusenberry's Avatar William Dusenberry

    As a ULC Bishop, with a DD, Doctorate in Metaphysics, and also a doctorate in Freethoughtism, I’d like to offer the following information for any consideration.

    During the multiple times I’ve visited “city centers” in Europe, I’ve asked my tour guides (while in these city centers) “is this (city center) where they used to burn the witches?”

    And the answer was “yes.”

    Then, if my wife allowed me to, I’d state “well, I guess they burned them all (the witches, that is) because now Europe has no more witches that I know of.”

    Moral: if you burn all of the Christian God’s witches — when you get the chance... this Christian God will create groups such as ISIS, to punish witch-burning Christians for having done so.

    Witches were a critical part, of how the Christian God intended to rule human societies.

    1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

      Since there are no more witches in Europe, maybe it is time to start on people with doctorates in exhibitionism.

      1. Gray Arswright's Avatar Gray Arswright

        I think, speaking from questionable experience, that you're supposed to orient the kindness such that the target perceives it if you intend to kill with it... elsewise you're just a foil for the defensive self-aggrandizements which accompany any conversation that starts and continues about oneself.

        1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

          Oh. Well, Ok then!

  1. Pamela Kay Waters's Avatar Pamela Kay Waters

    Witches should not put hexs on people for the black lives matter nor did the witches put a hex on Trump. If they do that then things will come back 3 times fold. Black lives matter nor more than white lives. White people are just smarter to obey the police when stopped and not run.

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Protection magick is meant to help not hinder, Pamela. We aren't the helpless fools who turn the other cheek. If the whammy was put on Trump, it only helped him pay off some karmic retribution that he rightfully owed. There's nothing wrong with that. Don't take everything literally, at face value.

    2. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

      "...nor did the witches put a hex on Trump."

      Yes and that might have been a mistake.

    3. A James Baird's Avatar A James Baird

      Oh my! Did you just say that? It is truly sad that you think that skin colour determines the level of intelligent response to people in authority.

      Have you ever heard of DWB, aka Driving While Black? How about the 13-year-old boy who was shot to death by police -- he was locked out of his house, and was climbing up to a second floor window to get into his own home. No, he must have been a burglar -- after all, he was a black kid in an affluent neighbourhood.

      George Floyd?

      Black Lives Matter is a campaign to highlight the fact that persons of colour are always treated worse than whites.

      Love. Respect. Acceptance.

      1. Pamela Kay Waters's Avatar Pamela Kay Waters

        No. They just bring it up more than the whites do. If they think they have it so bad here, then go back home to their roots and then see how bad they have it here, maybe they will start abiding by our laws. When the police say stop then obey .

        1. Robert James Ruhnke's Avatar Robert James Ruhnke

          You’re not paying attention to what’s going on, because your religion is white supremacy, Pamela. Black folk are law abiding, it’s just the white supremacist cops hurting them don’t care and we’re looking for any excuse possible to hurt them. But you don’t really care. Get outa here with that kinda hate.

  1. James Mounts's Avatar James Mounts

    How can anyone NOT be WRONGLY CONVIC|TED of being a witch. It is not possible to be RIGHTLY CONVICTED of being a witch. This is totally not necessary.

    1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

      You remember Emily Latella's get-out-of-hot-water maneuver? "Oh. Never mind."

  1. Rodney Knight's Avatar Rodney Knight

    Think they all should be clear even the one executed they where inoccent caught up in wave of religous hysteria and panic nothing more can be done but to clear thier names and hope they can Rest In Peace finally

    1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

      Rodney, I'm sure you're right, now they will feel much better...be sure to mention it when you see them.

      1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

        Mark, that would require a seance. I've conducted them before. Do you think we can get Rodney to join us. That's one thing that still must be done in person,and cannot be done virtually. However, a spirit could appear on a computer monitor, just like they sometimes do on television screens, and through other electric and electronic devices, in a myriad of ways.

    2. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

      It is logically impossible for a witch to be someone creditably viewed as a criminal in the first place. Witches were and are among the original environmentalists and naturalists and Gaia spiritualists... Like the original native americans, Indian and Tibetan Buddhists, Jainists, and Hindu. The idea of witches as evil is an entirely European Christian political fabrication, one of a long line of pretextual Fabrications to aid destructive conquest, which is the most durable European instinct perpetrated down to the present day.

      1. Pamela Kay Waters's Avatar Pamela Kay Waters

        Well put

  1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

    I'm sure she'll be very pleased...let the undoing of the burning and the reparations commence. Oh, can't unburn her? Can't make her whole either? Shucks. Good thing exonerating her didn't cost us.

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Well, atleast exonerating her made them feel good, as if they accomplished something important (if it wasn't meant as a joke). However, isn't it better to do something for someone altruistically, without seeking publicity, or reward.

  1. Rev. Jonathan Peebles's Avatar Rev. Jonathan Peebles

    I am sorry but EVERY ONE should be exonerated who was wrongly accused or how do you know they are not resting in peace? Most people unfortunately could care less because they where not prefect or of the faith which is why many do not want to become Christian. When I read this I thought this was amazing personally

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    From what what I've heard, read, and experienced in out of body experiences and dreams Jonathan, the Summerland is quite an active place, where no spirit is resting in slumber or eternal bliss, as misconceived by the living as a perfect paradise. None of us really ever start living until after we get there, free of stressed out physical bodies which require rest.

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    After I die I won't take my accusers with me, or anything else, but will be headed non-stop, without baggage, to the other side of the light! That's what is meant in the bible by it being as hard for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle, as it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven. Don't be possessed by your possessions of mind, body, emotions, or spirit. We can't take it with us when we go, as the saying goes, or we'll be trapped here, with or as ghosts, indefinitely, and quite possibly, forever.

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    It sounds like your ignorant of the existence of us Witches, James. We might not believe in you iether, but I bet that won't make you vanish. Only the right spell would do that, but we are much more tolerant and accepting of others, even if we don't believe in them. This might all be an illusion. All I know for sure is that something has perceptions that I think of as me, which might only be a thought in the mind of The All.

  1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

    Witches...among the Earth's original "flower children."

  1. Charles L Exner's Avatar Charles L Exner

    How about a trial condemning the perpetrators of the atrocities committed against these unfortunate innocent individuals. Once again the guilty get off free

  1. Gray Arswright's Avatar Gray Arswright

    Wholly-unqualified opinion: each of us has only the personal truths of our experiences to inform our actions.

    The only true form of justice for killing a self-aware entity other than oneself (or acting with the intent to kill another self-aware entity) would be to experience their life, as they lived it, up-to-and-including that death with subsequent reconciliation of one's murderous truths and those of the one murdered.

    Perhaps we're all especially fortunate for the fact of mercy and the possibility (though nigh-infinitessimal) of quantum immortality.

    (If such appeals to you as truth I would not necessarily recommend testing it by turning your back both literally and metaphorically upon those with murderous intent... though I've done it, I'm still kickin' around with proximally-zero complaints in the gettin' murdered category)

  1. Lord Morgan's Avatar Lord Morgan

    all lives mattered, folks, its part and parcel of spiritual war, life matters, that is what war is all about.

    you are willing and able to defend your own life and heritage at all times, do not let a mouse eat you alive, deal with it.

    I've currently convicted of being a war criminal, an activist, a soldier in peacetime, along the wrong line, i'm not a satanist, i'm with Valhalla.

    Read my story at gofundme.com under Valorism, I fight, I bite.

    I joined this group in support of the war, not against it.

  1. Pamela Kay Waters's Avatar Pamela Kay Waters

    Explain to me why black people run when they are stopped by the cops? They're either guilty or they are hiding something. And when stopped they shouldn't assault the cops. That's why they always get hurt. Because they think they are above the law and whites owe them.

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