The Salem witch trials were a terrible chapter in humanity’s history, as they sentenced to death hundreds of women (and some men) with little to no evidence of witchcraft.
Luckily, these days have been put in the past, but some women, such as Elizabeth Johnson Sr. never got the justice they deserved.
In the following article, you will learn more about Elizabeth’s story and how she finally got exonerated after a group of middle school students from Massachusetts Bay decided to take on such a huge project 330 years later.
Elizabeth Johnson Jr. was one of the hundreds of women convicted of witchcraft during the Salem witch trials. The accused witch finally got the ending she deserved after being forgiven because of the petition by Carrie LaPierre, an eighth-grade civics teacher, and her students.
During those terrible times in the 1600s, more than three centuries ago, around 200 women got arrested, and 19 ended up being executed because of their crimes.
Another four women died in prison, and although Elizabeth Johnson Jr. was spared, her name was never cleared until now.
This group of eighth-grade civics students decided to set the record straight and take the case to State Senator Diana Dizoglio to get Elizabeth the exoneration she deserved.
All of this happened in a North Andover middle school, about 40 minutes away from Salem. LaPierre explained how she learned about the history of the Salem witch trials because of a book by Richard Hite that described how women were accused of witchcraft, including Johnson.
Johnson became the last accused witch, as most of them had been later exonerated over time, but she was somehow overlooked. Still, after various legislative attempts, they managed to bring justice to her case.
There aren’t many details about Johnson or her life, but we know that her family was one of the most affected by the Salem witch trials. Around 28 members of her family were accused of witchcraft due to several historical family feuds.
However, it is known that Johnson confessed to becoming a Salem witch because Martha Carrier told her that God would save her if she turned to witchcraft.
Johnson was a victim of her time, and we can prove it by reading through the details of her trial.
She mentioned how she would see the devil appear like two black cats and talked about several other people involved in witchcraft in the town.
This woman tried everything in her power to show how others convinced her to become a witch, including showing her bruised knuckles that she claimed had been hurt by other witches.
The Boston Globe reported that Johnson was sentenced to death when she was only 22 years old, but she was later spared by the town’s governor, as his wife was also accused of witchcraft during the Salem witch trials.
This massive exoneration happened in 1711 when the state officials accepted that they didn’t have enough evidence to accuse or execute women for witchcraft.
After this, they exonerated many of their prisoners, including John Proctor, a highly famous alleged witch.
Nonetheless, Elizabeth Johnson Jr. was never forgiven, even after she filed a formal petition in 1712 to be included in the exoneration act.
This would have meant the world to her and her family back in the day, as they would have cleared their family name and gained back their honor.
She explained in the letter sent to the Honorable Court how she asked its members to consider changing her charges to make up for her long imprisonment, but she never received an answer and got her concerns dismissed.
That’s why LaPierre decided to set the record straight and connect with the North Andover Historical Society. She thought this would be an exciting project for her students and help them understand the colossal weight Salem’s history has in today’s America.
The Boston Globe and Associated Press explained how the process of getting EJJ exonerated happened. Everything started when this group of eighth-graders petitioned the Massachusetts lawmakers to introduce a budget bill to clear Johnson’s name. It took them three years to be heard by one of the state senators, who finally managed to add Johnson’s name to the existing resolution that exonerated Salem’s “witches.”
The whole legislative and tiring procedures were a huge lesson to LaPierre’s students. Still, the main reason she engaged them in this project was to teach them how to have a strong sense of justice and advocate for those who can’t speak up for themselves can have fantastic results. She wanted them to learn to be persistent when chasing their goals and listen to the power of their voices.
Subsequent legislation introduced Johnson’s name to a previous resolution meant to exonerate several alleged witches. This is how the terrible actions caused by the town of Salem sank in and finally got redeemed.
Now that all women convicted of witchcraft have been forgiven, LaPierre will need to find a new project to work on with her students. This time, she claims she will let her students choose which issues should be taken care of in their community to raise their voices on the subjects they care about.
Still, this was a fantastic ending for a terrible chapter that started more than three centuries ago. It shows that it is never too late to bring justice to the table and speak up for those oppressed by the people in power.
Sadly, Johnson lived during a time when not everyone had access to a fair trial, but this isn’t the case anymore, and here at Ehline Law, we’re ready to help you get the justice you deserve for all legal issues you may be facing.
Please don’t hesitate to call (833)LETS-SUE to get a free consultation with one of our legal experts.