And yet, during Johnson’s lifetime and in the centuries that followed, his name was never truly erased. It wasn’t until Carrie LaPierre, an eighth-grade civics teacher at North Andover Middle School, stumbled across her story and implicated her students in her case that Massachusetts lawmakers noticed.
While many other convicted witches were exonerated, many of them posthumously, the late Johnson – or “EJJ”, as LaPierre and his students called him – had “somehow been overlooked while all the other convicted witches had been exonerated over the years”. LaPierre told CNN in an email.
Some of the details of her story were sordid and mortifying to Salem residents: Johnson said the devil appeared to her “like two black cats,” and she named several other people in Salem who she said were involved in the witchcraft. She also showed her knuckles, where it looked like other “witches” had “sucked” her, according to the 1692 examination paper.
Why, exactly, Johnson was left out is unclear. But LaPierre decided, after contacting the North Andover Historical Society, LaPierre that taking on the case of a long-dead “witch” and clearing her name might be an engaging project for his students – a real-life application of the civic education in action.
Johnson is the latest Salem witch to be exonerated
All of that petitioning and bureaucratic navigation has been instructive for her eighth-grade classes, but LaPierre said “the long-term lessons are probably more important: standing up for justice, standing up for those who can’t do it on their own, recognize that their voice has power. in the community and in the world, and understand that perseverance is necessary to achieve their goals.”
But LaPierre’s work continues: she will have to find a new project for her eighth graders now that Johnson’s case is closed. This year, she leaves it up to her students to determine the problems that concern them and the steps they will take to solve them.
Whatever her students choose to tackle this year, witches are likely left out: Johnson is the latest woman convicted in the Salem trials to be exonerated. And with that, LaPierre and his class ended a chapter of history that began centuries ago.