For more than 300 years, Elizabeth Johnson Jr. was considered guilty of a crime she didn’t commit. During the Salem witch trials, the 22-year-old woman from what is now North Andover, Massachusetts, was convicted of witchcraft.
Johnson wasn’t executed, but her reputation seemed scarred forever. While everyone else found guilty of evil magic during Salem’s infamous trials had been exonerated over the years, Johnson never was.
But in the fall of 2020, some unlikely allies stepped in to help—a group of students at North Andover Middle School. After learning about Johnson during their civics class, the then-eighth-graders decided to take action. Over the next two years, the teens wrote a bill to clear Johnson’s name and worked with a Massachusetts state senator to lobby for its passage.
The students’ efforts paid off. This past summer, the state of Massachusetts finally exonerated Johnson of witchcraft, 329 years after her conviction.
“She went through something so unfair,” says Olivia Fritzinger, 14. “We knew we had to fight for her.”