From Smithsonian Magazine:

In 1692, a panic swept through Salem, Massachusetts. More than 200 people—mostly women—were accused of witchcraft; 20 were executed, and five more died in prison. What led a quiet New England town to turn against itself, and why, three centuries later, do these trials continue to captivate Americans?

A new exhibition at the New-York Historical Society (N-YHS), “The Salem Witch Trials: Reckoning and Reclaiming,” transports viewers to that bleak New England winter—and invites us to consider how we might have reacted to such events.

“It’s a call to re-examine our own behavior in moments of crisis,” says Anna Danziger Halperin, associate director of the N-YHS Center for Women’s History and the exhibition’s coordinating curator. “Everyone wants to think they would respond on the side of justice, but it’s really easy to get carried along and turn on one another.”

The exhibition evokes this history largely through rare documents, including the confession—no doubt given under duress—of Tituba, an enslaved Indigenous woman. But it also includes modern reclamations, including photographs by Frances F. Denny, a descendant of one of the Salem judges, that focus on present-day people who identify as witches.

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Browse all of Frances F. Denny’s work at CLAMP
Browse Frances F. Denny’s series “Major Arcana” at CLAMP