This talk has sold out.
Profs and Pints DC presents: “Early American Witch Hunts,” a look at the colonial hysteria that led to the tragedy of Salem, with Richard Bell, professor of history at the University of Maryland.
Salem, 1692: Two young girls living in the household of one of the town’s ministers are acting strangely and having fits. A doctor is summoned and tells the minister that his girls are suffering from the action of the Devil’s ‘Evil Hand’ upon them. News of the doctor’s diagnosis quickly spreads and confirms what many in town are already whispering: These girls are the victims of witchcraft. They have been cursed by witches living somewhere in Salem.
The notorious Salem witch hunts that resulted were hardly isolated incidents. Instead, they marked the culmination of anti-witch hysteria that had crossed the Atlantic with early colonists, inspiring laws banning witchcraft and the execution of accused witches elsewhere.
Learn in depth about witch hunts in the colonies from Dr. Richard Bell, a University of Maryland historian who has given terrific talks about the history underlying the Hamilton musical, Benjamin Franklin, the “reverse underground railroad,” and other subjects. Watching him in action at Penn Social, beneath the Little Penn Coffeehouse, will make you long to spend every day in one of his classrooms.
We’ll begin at the beginning, looking at what people in colonial America believed about witchcraft and how they carried out witch hunts to fight it. You’ll learn about the hallmarks of an American witch hunt and where else they had taken place.
Why is the 1662 outbreak of witch-hunting in Salem, a sleepy port town in Massachusetts, so well-known today? We’ll examine that infamous episode in depth, probing its most troubling corners and why that tragic episode claimed so many innocent lives. Among the questions Professor Bell will tackle: Did anyone face justice for their role in perpetrating this outrage? How have historians tried to explain the peculiar dynamics, impact, and legacy of what happened in Salem? (Advance tickets: $12. Doors: $15, or $13 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later. Please allow yourself time to place any orders and get seated and settled in.)
Image from the 1869 painting “Witch Hill (The Salem Martyr)” by Thomas Satterwhite Noble. (New York Historical Society Museum and Library / Wikimedia Commons).