This is a surprising presentation of historical fact, since the character is based on the historical Arawak figure, Tituba. She was an enslaved South American woman who sailed from Barbados to mainland America with her owner Simon Parris of Danvers, Massachusetts. She was the first of the initial 3 women to be accused of practicing witchcraft during the 1692 Salem witch trials, to which she confessed. She also claimed that local women Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne also participated. She was imprisoned and later released.
She featured prominently in Arthur Miller’s 1953 play The Crucible, and the 1957 and 1996 film adaptations of the play, portrayed by Louise Stubbs and Charlayne Woodward respectively.
Tituba of Salem Village was written by Ann Petry in 1956 for children 10 and up, portraying Tituba as a Bajan woman who tells stories about life in Barbados to the village girls. Petry was the first African American woman writer with book sales topping a million copies for her 1946 novel The Street.
Maybe it’s not so surprising that a woman of colour has featured over the years in literary works and stage plays. Our association with the occult is just another given in the mainstream, like running fast and dancing good.
Still, check out Madekwe’s performance from the first season to the third and last. A fan petition for a 4th season was unsuccessful after the series cancellation was announced last December (2016).
All 36 episodes of Salem are currently available on Netflix.