The Salem Witch Trials: Slave Woman “Tituba” was the First Person Accused of Witchcraft

1 Posted by - August 7, 2022 - LATEST POSTS, SLAVERY

Tituba was a slave who worked for Samuel Parris during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. The various documents and books written about the Salem Witch Trials over the years often refer to Tituba as black or mixed race (research shows she was most likely West Indian Negro). The race of Tituba has been disputed for 150 years. Undoubtedly, the racial politics of the mid-19th century are responsible for this debate. Not much is known about Tituba’s life except that she was born in an Arawak Village in South America where she was captured during her childhood and taken to Barbados as a slave. Parris, or an associate, later purchased her in Barbados when she was a teenager and brought her to Boston in 1680.

Tituba was the first person to be accused by Elizabeth Parris and Abigail Williams of witchcraft. She was also the first to confess to witchcraft in Salem Village. Some sources suggest Tituba was named a witch because she allegedly practiced voodoo and taught the Salem Village girls fortune telling. At first she denied that she had anything to do with witchcraft, but Samuel Parris beat her until she confessed to helping Mary Sibley make a witch cake. When questioned later, she added that she knew about occult techniques from her mistress in Barbados, who taught her how to ward herself from evil powers and how to reveal the cause of witchcraft. Tituba went on to describe conversations she had with evil pigs, dogs and rats who all ordered her to do their bidding and said she personally witnessed Sarah Good and Sarah Osbourne transform into strange, winged creatures.

Despite the fact that she confessed to a capital offense and was a slave, Tituba was never tried or executed for her role in the witchcraft trials. At the end Tituba recanted her confession, admitting that she had lied to protect herself. Tituba remained in jail in Boston because Parris refused to pay her jail fees, for reasons unknown. It is possible he wanted to be rid of her because she served as a reminder of the witch trials or because he was angry at her for recanting her confession. In April of 1693, Tituba was sold to an unknown person for the price of her jail fees. It is also assumed her husband, John, was sold along with her.







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