SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

August 13, 2012

Witch Trials Memorial to be rededicated

Actor Gregory Alan Williams will speak

BY BETHANY BRAY
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALEM — The restored Witch Trials Memorial will be rededicated in a ceremony on Sept. 9.

As in 1992, when the powerful memorial was unveiled, the ceremony will involve descendants of the witch trial victims and Gregory Alan Williams, hero of the 1992 Los Angeles race riots and first recipient of the Salem Award for Human Rights and Social Justice.

Salem High School’s a cappella group, WitchPitch? will sing as part of the rededication, and the descendants will lay bouquets of rosemary as Williams reads the victims’ names aloud.

“The memorial is extremely important to the city,” said Patty MacLeod, a member of the original tercentenary and special restoration committees. “It represents a lot of things — it’s a tribute to the victims, but also an opportunity for people to become aware of the trials in a real way, to learn the lessons of the trials. That’s what we hope to do.”

The Salem Award Foundation, which gives an award each year to a champion of human rights or social justice, has overseen repair work at the 20-year-old memorial over the summer.

Hayden Hillsgrove, the memorial’s original stonemason, has reworked and repaired the memorial’s stone. Landscape and lighting elements have also been restored and a plan created for future maintenance.

The memorial, inscribed with the names of 20 people accused of witchcraft and hanged in 1692, has received an estimated 6 million visitors.

Williams, an actor featured in the TV shows “Baywatch” and “The West Wing” and the film “Remember the Titans,” came to the aid of a Japanese-American motorist who had been pulled out of his car and was being beaten by a mob during race riots in 1992.

Williams is credited with saving the man’s life.

The memorial, designed by architect James Cutler and artist Maggie Smith, was built for the 300th anniversary of the witch trials.

“There was no court system to protect them,” MacLeod said. “They were victims not of witchcraft, but fear and superstition and people’s inability to be open-minded.”

“(Over 20 years) I think (the memorial) had lost its punch,” she said. “With the repair, it looks so profound. People really make an effort to spend time there. ... (We want to) bring it back to everyone’s consciousness, give it a bit of a rebirth.”

Bethany Bray can be reached at bbray@salemnews.com and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.

IF YOU GO

What: Rededication of Salem Witch Trials Memorial

When: Sunday, Sept. 9, 4 p.m.

Where: Charter Street, behind the Peabody Essex Museum

To learn more or donate: www.salemaward.org