Why the racist history of the charter school movement is never discussed:
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It is not surprising, perhaps, that among the approximately 155 people accused in the infamous Salem witch trials of 1692, two of the accused were enslaved Africans, identified in the court records as “negro.” It’s arguable that, when most lay persons think of blacks and the Salem debacle, the legendary Tituba comes to mind. Still widely believed by popular historians and writers to be African-American or African, Tituba, the slave of Rev. Samuel Parris of Salem village, was actually Indian. Indeed, every single reference to Tituba in the court documents of the time, as well as in contemporary eyewitness accounts, classifies her as “Indian,” never as “negro” or “mulatto,” another popular Puritan term.
Recent scholarship has shown conclusively that the origins of Tituba’s mythical ancestry are to be found in embellished literary accounts dating from the late nineteenth century, well after the Civil War, when the institution of slavery and African-American ethnicity became closely linked. From the moment Henry Wadsworth Longfellow changed Tituba’s ethnicity from Indian to half-African and half-Indian in his play,Giles Corey of Salem Farms, popular historians and writers thereafter repeated the change, and sometime later Tituba evolved in the cultural imagination into a fully African slave, whose voodoo-like rituals caused the Salem witch trials and turned the Puritans of Salem village against themselves.
But what of the two women accused of witchcraft, who, unlike Tituba, were actually “negroes?” Both were female servants in Puritan households. One, Mary Black, lived in the house of Margaret Thatcher in the seaport town of Salem, Massachusetts. The other, Candy, lived in the home of Nathaniel Putnam in nearby Salem village where the witchcraft accusations began. The accusers of these two enslaved women were the same young females responsible for initiating the whole Salem debacle. Residents of Salem village, they turned out to be the only accusers of these African women whom they may have seen as easy targets if only because, in their minds, the devil was “black.”
The Salem court records reveal that the devil was repeatedly referred to as a “black man,” a widely known characterization imported from Christian Europe. It might therefore be assumed that the devil’s “blackness” carried an ethnically specific racial meaning. But the color black and its evil connotations also applied to Native Americans whom the early Puritans believed to be devil worshippers. After the devastating King Phillip’s War of 1676-77, in which hundreds of settlers were brutally killed, the Puritans greatly feared the Indians, and their fears were revived in 1692 after renewed attacks in1689. New Englanders described the Indians as tawny or black in color, especially the much feared Wabanaki of Maine who wore black face paint in their devastating raids upon the settler communities. Indeed, one of the court records tells of a woman who reported a frightening dream in which “she saw a thing like an Indian all black which did pinch her in her neck.”