ABOUT THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS MEMORIAL
In the summer of 1692, hundreds of people in the Salem area were accused of practicing witchcraft, defined by the court of the time as a crime. Twenty people were put to death, victims of fear, superstition, and a court system that failed to protect them. The Salem witch trials have intrigued people ever since.
The tercentenary of this chapter in Salem’s and America’s history provided a fitting occasion to create an enduring tribute to the victims of the Salem witch trials and a reminder that among all people and nations a spirit of tolerance and understanding should prevail. Designed by the architect/artist team of James Cutler and Maggie Smith, the memorial was made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and has won national critical acclaim. It was dedicated on August 5, 1992, by Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel.
Photo Courtesy of Tina Koutsos-Jordan
Striking in its simplicity, the memorial, which is located on Charter Street behind the Peabody Essex Museum, is surrounded on three sides by a handcrafted granite dry wall. Inscribed in the stone threshold entering the memorial are the victims’ protests of innocence. These protests are interrupted mid-sentence by the wall, symbolizing society’s indifference to oppression. Six locust trees, the last to flower and the first to lose their leaves, represent the stark injustice of the trials. At the rear of the memorial, visitors view the tombstones of the adjacent 17th-century Charter Street Burying Point, a reminder of all who stood in mute witness to the hysteria.
Photos Courtesy of Tina Koutsos-Jordan
Today, the Memorial offers a quiet place in which to contemplate the spirit and strength of those who chose to die rather than compromise their personal truths. It is, however, in desperate need of restoration. Despite the regular maintenance provided by the City of Salem, in collaboration with the Salem Award Foundation and with support from the National Park Service, more than 6,000,000 visitors have taken their toll. Restoring and maintaining this important civic memorial is a key objective of the Salem Award Foundation and the need is urgent. Please donate now.