To the editor:
In Salem 328 years ago, 20 innocent people were executed, having been falsely accused of being witches. For the Puritans, being a witch meant being a channel of the devil. Of the nine judges in the trial only one, Samuel Sewall, publicly apologized for passing the death sentence on those innocents. We do have a Sewall Street in Salem and I would leave that unchanged. However, having places in our city named after any of the other unapologetic judges I feel is inappropriate. This includes Hathorne Street, Gedney Street and Winthrop Street, as well as the Saltonstall School.
John Hathorne’s great-great grandson, born Nathaniel Hathorne, added a “w” to his last name, because he was so troubled by his ancestor’s actions.
As far as Salem being the “Witch City,” it is time we rethink that also. In the modern Wiccan religion, practitioners may refer to themselves as witches or “traditional witches.” However, this has nothing to do with the long and terrible history of people, mostly women, persecuted and murdered for “working for the devil” and also called witches. Thus, naming Salem “Witch City” shows lack of understanding and compassion for the innocent souls who were murdered. Besides that, our city was the first Salem of many to be so-named in the United States. And what the name signifies is that we are the “City of Peace” (from salaam in Arabic and shalom in Hebrew). This change would better honor those 14 women and six men who gave their lives.