Salem Now and in 1692
Salem in the 21st Century
Today, Salem, Massachusetts, is mindful of both the many proud moments in its history and its responsibility to ensure that the events of 1692 are understood today in a world still living with prejudice, violations of human rights and miscarriages of justice.
The Salem Award is just one example of how we do this. Other examples include the Salem Witch Trials Memorial, the Jonathan Corwin (The Witch House and two newer Salem organizations, the Salem No Place for Hate Committee and the Salem State University Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. All are expressions of a community-wide awareness of Salem’s unique history and what this history symbolizes throughout the world.
Salem in 1692
People have been persecuted as witches through the centuries and throughout the world, yet it is the events that took place in a small colonial American town in 1692 that have captured the world’s attention and have come to symbolize the tragic consequences of intolerance and injustice.
A few young girls accused hundreds of community members of witchcraft—of persecuting them, causing bodily harm and pain. There was no tangible evidence, only hysteria and a willingness to believe what could not be proved. For the accused, there was no way to defend against innuendo, fear and an irrational rush to judgment. Over the course of less than a year, friends were pitted against friends, upright citizens ostracized, forced to flee for their lives or, in the case of 20 men and women, put to death.
Within months, it was over…except for the infamous legacy. More than 300 years later, the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 remain an indelible reminder of injustice. At the same time, however, they have a unique power to inspire us to have the courage to fight against intolerance and the vigilance to protect human rights in our own world today.
The Jonathan Corwin House
Also known simply as the Witch House, this 17th century home is a fine example of a grand first-period home and is the only building still standing in Salem with a direct connection to the 1692 witch trials.
Judge Jonathan Corwin served on the Court of Oyer and Terminer and was involved in investigating the claims of witchcraft and in handing down the sentences of execution. It is thought that some of the interviews he conducted were held in this house.
Threatened with destruction when North Street was widened in 1942, the house was saved by a group of concerned citizens who formed what is now Historic Salem, Inc., one of the country’s oldest civic preservation groups. HSI gave the house to the City of Salem, which has operated it as a house museum since 1948.
In 2009, Mayor Kimberley Driscoll proposed and the Salem City Council voted for a ticket surcharge on this City-owned property in order to support the Foundation’s operations and non-award programs.
Other Historic Sites
In 2014, the Salem Award Foundation spearheaded the production of Visit 1692, a brochure providing information on 10 sites or events in the Salem area.