F20 Black Atlantic: Resources, Pedagogy, and Scholarship on the 18th Century Black Atlantic

Black and Indigenous Women’s Relationships to the Salem Witch Trials

I found it interesting that Hofstra included Zipporah’s case in their Salem Witch Trials Archive. This made me want to further explore the relationships of Black and Indigenous women to the Salem Witch Trials, and general opposition to the puritanical makeup of New England at the time. After a quick search, I found that there is scholarship on the topic. Due to poor documentation (common at the time) on these women, information on their origins prior to coming into association with the families they served is scant. Trying to find more than what has been discovered would be the most challenging aspect of the project. However, understanding or discovering their spiritual practices prior to colonialism would help to fully delve into the context during that society. I imagine that it may be less of a challenge to find information on the practices of the surrounding Indigenous tribes. (This is in the same vein as my final project idea.) In Zipporah’s case, she was a free Black woman. The questions I raise for this research project and/or those that could be addressed in a lesson plan are:
1. Was there any correlation between the free people of color versus those enslaved, with those accused of witchcraft? Can we draw any parallels between the freedoms or lack of the same between those accused of witchcraft?     
2.  There is no declaration for there to be a separation of church and state at this point. How did the practice of Indigenous religions play into who was considered to be practicing and what was considered witchcraft?
3. Look at the larger picture of women carrying the burden for men. “If the women of his house shielded him from knowledge of scandal, he had plausible deniability of things illegal, if not moral exemption from a disorderly household.” (IV Legal Repercussions Hofstra Law Review)
Not surprisingly, we see the burden placed on women as it pertains to this case of fornication and the welfare of the babies. Turning back to Zipporah’s case, might this have been one of, if not, the earliest policing of women’s bodies in the colonies to come through the courts?
Also to note, Zipporah’s surname constantly changed and having a surname would imply that she was married. In the case brought up against her, they caught her during a window when she was not married and thus, could be charged with fornication? Could men be tried for fornication? Was upholding the narrative of women using magic to impose their sexuality perhaps used as justification to charge women with witchcraft?

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