"witch hunting" through the years
Created on February 19, 2022
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If we look back, the action of persecuting others seems to be something deeply engrained in the society : whichever the period, crimes have been committed and people have suffered from persecutions, most of the time, unfair ones...
Therefore, let's focus on the most known american persecutions.
THE DECADES OF
I) LOCALISATION AND ISSUES
III) 1630-1690 : THE WITCH PERIOD
IV) 1950 : MCCARTYISM
V) 1980 : HIV
"TERRITORY OF THREAT"
HOW AMERICANS DEVELOPED THE WITCH HUNTING
A country full of prejudices
This genially functions as a guide, so you can navigate between the pages by clicking on this icon
THE HOLLYWOOD TEN
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What is puritanism ?
Puritanism, which was a way of life dedicated to God, has developped yet one of the most known women massacre during the 17th century, justifiying those deaths by saying that they had to eradicate a hidden population : witches.
The puritanism is a religious reform movement in the late 16th and 17th centuries which advocated the purification of England. In fact, they intended to make people return to simpler and stricter religious rules at the same time that they wanted to settle a new world for God and claimed this was the reason they were on earth.
According to them, they had a divine mission and they believed in predestination : the Holy Spirit will choose who will go to hell or to heaven. As a result, they lived in accordance with the thought they had to lead a pious, austere life and had very strict moral code and values, such as moral purity, honesty, community first, self control and above all, never stop praying.
Moreover, puritans feared the Devil and wanted to fight against him : they found spiritual meanings in basic events, for example in the forest which was the home of evil spirits or witches, and they rejected anything related to it...
During this period, many things were forbidden : as a very strict spirit, any kind of physical and social pleasures were banned (dancing, card playing, holidays, celebrations...), the population was also submitted to a special dress code forbidding colorful clothes, fashionable accessories and only allowing plain dark clothes. Adultery and being part of the anglican chruch was also forbidden.
But, what leads to persecutions were prohibitions very specific : mystery was not allowed and witchcraft was considered as very dangerous. The fact that the puritans were very narrow-minded caused the beggining of a huge witch hunting since they began to look for anybody which can be related to the Devil
Puritans not only prohibited many things but also implemented highly feared punishments : public shaming grew and humiliations were awful, sometimes people were imprisoned, sometimes they were drowed, burnt or killed publicly, but, they were always rejected.
Salem, a cursed city
This event was so important a museum has been build up in memoriam of this period. In fact, the museum website explain that "Visitors experience the drama of that dark time though thirteen life-size stage sets, figures, lighting and narration as they are witness to the web of lies and intrigue of the Salem witch-hunt"
Salem, a city located on the north coast of Massachusetts, above Boston, is most known for a serie of particular trials occured in 1692.
Who were the witches and what were the accusations ?
If witch hunting initially took place in Europe, as the 17th century began, the fear of living with creatures of the Devil grown in the New World. The inhabitants began to examine their towns for witches and developped paranoia and an irrepresive fear. The process was simple : if a woman was suspected of practicing witchcraft, she was judged and most of the time assassinated. Probably the best-known witch trials took place in Salem, Massachussets in 1692.
An accusation was usually initiated by a person who suffered from pretending signs of witchcraft. In Salem, the reverend Parris' daughter started to have body contortions and uncontrolled screaming. This was perceived as a unquestionable sign of witchcraft and so the hysteria ensued from the others young women begging to exhibit symptoms.
Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne and Tituba were accused of having bewitched Elizabeth Parris and as a result the Salem Witch Trial began.
During those judgments, and not only in Salem,"Witches tests" were realized, such as "The Water Test" : the presumed witch was plungded into water, if she sank, she was innocent but if she floated, she was guilty (water would reject her body and prevent her from submerging) or the "Prayer Test" : accused witches had to recite extracts from the Bible as it was thought witches were incapable of reciting a religious text. Any errors were viewed as proof that they were in contact with the devil and it was used as an hard evidence during the trial.
In reality, when a woman was accused of witchcraft, she was hardly persecuted and almost everytime an obvious culprit to the society.
CIRCE, helios' daughter, considered as one of the most powerful witch (or, more precisely sorceress)
SARAH OSBORNE, a colonist, accused to be a witch by Sarah Good
TITUBA, the reverend paris' indigenous slave which is accused by the mister parris' daughters
SARAH GOOD, accused, such as Tituba and Sarah Osborne, of being a witch and of having bewitched Samuel Parris' daughter
SARAG GOOD and SARAH OSBORNE trial
ELIZABETH PARRIS,played by a troupe in the play "the Crucible' by Arthur Miller
SALEM WITCH TRIALS
Most of the time, this was how a witch trial unfolded :
Women who suffered from unusual signs (like violent muscle spasms, vomiting, hallucinations or burning sensations) was supposed to have been bewitched by someone and a research began to find the witch.
When one or some assumed witches were discovered, they were judged and asked for questions.
Women were executed but contrary to popular belief, none of the condemned was burned. They were instead taken to Gallows Hill to die by hanging.
One of the witches test : "the water test", which can also be a form of public shaming.
The court's sentence was announced and the woman was considered as guilty.
THE BEGGINING OF MCCARTYISM
If the witch hunting initially refers to the period we developped before, a more recent event is also called "witch hunting" : McCartyism.
McCarthy giving speech to an excited crowd at the 1952 Republican National Convention
Senator Joseph McCarthy speaking before an enthusiastic audience
PART 1 : McCartyism is an amecian history period during the Cold War.
Republican Senator J. McCarthy attacked communism since according to him, communism represents a danger but also a scourge within American institutions. He claimed that communist spies have infiltrated the administration and occupied key positions within the government so they must be considered as traitors and communist sympathizers.
PART2 : Since McCarty was opposed to the communist promulgation, he decided to start an investigation about the us inhabitants. He investigated different profiles from citizens, who were questioned about their political views and had to incriminate their friends, to celebrities like Hollywood ones. He forced everyone to prove their innocence even they have not be found guilty.
PART 3 : All were accused of being communist or to be related to it. This led to increase suspicions and fear in the us and more precisely within the government, at the same time that it had clearly develop tensions between America and the Communist community. Even an act was promulgated to make illegal the hiring of communists so a real isolation and persecution began.
A PARTICULAR BLACKLIST IN HOLLYWOOD
In 1947, the House Comittee on Unamerican Activities began to conduct a series of investigations into government officials, the army but also into Hollywood actors, screenwriters, and directors because they suspected their work was communist-inspired. In fact, after the World War II ended, Americans once again began to fear and hate communism so the government organised hearings.
Therefore, more than 40 people received summons to testify in front of the committee, once again without any evidence.
During those hearings, the accused ones were divided into two groups : "Friendly witnesses” who had to testify about communist activities they have witnessed and “unfriendly witnesses” who were called to testify about their own communist activities.
All must answered to the question "Are you or have you been an american commust party member ?" but, The hollywood ten (10 hollywood scenarists, actors, producers...), who were considered as "unfriendly witnesses", refused to answer the question claiming our first amemdment rights. As a result, in 1948, they were sentenced to a one year imprisonment but have also been blacklisted : the blacklist imposed the refusal to employ in the entertainment industry, as the blacklisted have been suspected of having been communists or sympathizers.
This blacklist has been in effect until 1960's but even after this date, the blacklisted ones struggled to find jobs again.
A PARTICULAR BLACKLIST IN HOLLYWOOD
Herbert J. Biberman
Ring Lardner Jr.
John Howard Lawson
A INVICIBLE SCOURGE
In the early 80's and more precisely in June 1981, an rare desease is noticed by doctors, the pneumocystis pneumonia, touching a 5 homosexual group in California. Since this desease was only affecting immunodeficient people at this time, this discovery intrigued the CDC, the federal public health organism, and appeared to be something to control...
Yesterday but even Today
AN IRREPRESSIBLE FEAR
After a collaboration between the CDC and doctors, 31 persons were found suffering from this pneumonia but also from fever and Kapopsi's sarcoma : a very rare skin cancer. Then, the virus spread and more and more cases were reported. Firstly, as only homosexuals were sick, this desease was called "gay cancer" but, quickly studies highlighted the fact this was inacurate and that the virus can infect anybody.
peoplewere treated as social leper.
A mean behavior.
So, at the time,no one knew what caused AIDS (which was not called AIDS yet) and this frightened the population who did not know what would happen to those who had it. The only thing known was that more and more men were dying because of this full of mystery disease.
ANOTHER PAIN IS FELT
Therefore, The Justice department takes many actions against the discrimination that strikes patients with AIDS : 900 lawsuits were instituted since January 1993, and 789 resulted in compensations. The « Health care financing administration”, obtained for example repairs in 20 cases of "refusal to care infected people".
Now, that is know HIV and AIDS causes immunodeficiency, AIDS involves differents stages (the HIV one is the first), HIV medecine exists and HIV is transmitted by fluids like blood, semen, breast milk or vaginal and rectal fluids, the discrimination should not exist but it still present...
Hope you have enjoyed this presentation and become more aware about the scourge of discrimination...It's essential to fight this phenomn and to stop the pain it can cause. We are all different but we need to learn how to live together, in peace.