“What is a witch? I noticed that when he said the word, it was marked with disapproval. Why should that be? Why? Isn’t the ability to communicate with the invisible world, to keep constant links with the dead, to care for others and heal, a superior gift of nature that inspires respect, admiration, and gratitude?”- Maryse Condé, I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem
With my interest in discovering hidden stories, this book was right up my alley. I can hardly think of a worse fate than being an enslaved black woman in the New World in the 17th Century. I know about the Salem Witch Trials but I didn’t know that there was a black witch who had played a role. Tituba, who was born and raised in Barbados but moved to America, ends up playing such a pivotal role in the Salem witch trials, yet I’d never heard of her until I came across this book. I think it’s obvious that what was omitted in history clearly shows what (or who) has been valued in history. It also shows that in many cases black people weren’t even considered worthy of a footnote.
Angela Davis’ foreword is very powerful, and one part I kept coming back to because it resonated with me, as I believe it would resonate with anyone who wasn’t taught their proper history:
“Tituba looked for her story in the history of the Salem witch trials and could not find it. I have looked for my history in the story of the colonization of this continent and I have found silences, omissions, distortions, and fleeting, enigmatic insinuations.”
But literature is powerful and gives life and a voice to people long dead and sometimes long forgotten. It is indeed a moment of triumph when Condé decided to give Tituba a voice. Even if someone didn’t get justice then, they can at least get some sense of justice through literature, especially when their story, which may have been ridiculed, is finally understood.
“Tituba’s revenge consists in having persuaded one of her descendants to rewrite her own moment in history in her own African oral tradition.”