Candy was an enslaved African or African-descended woman caught up in the Salem witch trials in Massachusetts in 1692. She was brought from Barbados to Salem Village by her owner Margarett Hawke sometime in the years immediately preceding the notorious witchcraft panic of 1692, and while there was accused of being a witch. As with many of the key players in the Salem witch trials, Candy has left little in the historical record other than the accusations against her, court testimony, and the judgment against her. Still, even this small amount of information is compelling. The case also shows that, while there were relatively few African descended people in 17th Century Massachusetts, there were strong economic and political ties between New England and Barbados, based on the shipping industry and trade in slave-manufactured goods, particularly sugar and cotton. In fact the Reverend Samuel Parris and his famous Arawak slave Tituba (often depicted as African) also were from Barbados and it was in Parris’s household that the witch panic of 1692 began.
On July 2, 1692 Candy was arrested for the crime of witchcraft in a later wave of accusations made by villagers Mary Wallcot and Ann Putnam. Her name appears over four hundred times in the Salem Witchcraft court documents and she was famous for her violent, physical reaction to the accused; eighteen year old Mary Walcott, like most of the community of white and English descent, was also a frequent accuser. It is interesting and no doubt significant that Candy was not arrested in the first round of accusation, as Tituba had been; neither being a person of color or enslaved, it appeared, was enough to automatically attract the attention of the accusing girls.
Once arrested and examined, however, Candy used her position as an outsider to her advantage. Unlike the only other Black woman arrested, Mary Black, Candy confessed to her activity as a witch in some detail. She did not provide the sophisticated symbolic imagery of the devil and his color-coded animal familiars—such as the black dog, the yellow bird, and the red rat—as Tituba had done, rather offering material evidence of her Satanic actions. While spectral evidence was being used to convict others, Candy turned over physical objects that she asserted were part of her witch practice, including two pieces of cloth that she used for sympathetic magic in the manner of voodoo dolls. In the trial transcript there was dramatic evidence of the efficacy of these objects—three girls (Mary Warren, Deliverance Hobbs, and Abigail Hobbs) were afflicted by the pinching of the cloth, and when “a bit of one of the rags being set on fire, the afflicted all said they were burned, and cried out dreadfully” (Salem Witchcraft Papers, vol. 1).
While Candy's confessions show a strong understanding of European notions of witchcraft (and possibly African sorcery), her use of the court to accuse her mistress is of even greater significance. As an alien, and as an enslaved woman, she could be seen as powerless, and yet she was able to use her status to resist punishment in an effective fashion—she tied her fate to that of her free white owner. Her July 4, 1692 testimony includes the following exchange:
Q. Candy, are you a witch?
A. Candy, no witch in her country. Candy's mother no witch. Candy no witch Barbados.
Q. Did your mistress make you a witch in this country?
A. This country, mistress give Candy witch.
Understanding the power of the Essex County community's belief in witchcraft, Candy saved her own life by cleverly casting blame upon her owner, Margarett Hawkes, and by confessing to witchcraft but not to bringing Caribbean or African magic into Salem. The truth of her testimony appeared to be corroborated by the spectral evidence offered by the accusing girls. All of this served to place Hawkes in jeopardy. According to the trial records, “the black man and Mrs. Hawkes and the negro [Candy] stood by the puppets or rags and pinched them, and then they [the girls] were afflicted” (Salem Witchcraft Papers, vol. 1). Candy's testimony implicating Hawkes played upon Puritan expectations:
Q. What did your mistress do to make you a witch?
A. Mistress bring book and pen and ink, make Candy write in it.
Candy thus testified that she had been led to Satan directly by her mistress through the classical method of signing the devil's book. In the end, as were all others who confessed, Candy was found not guilty of her crimes. She had successfully survived the onslaught that took many innocent lives. With the end of the trials Candy disappeared from the historical record and from popular memory, usurped by the Amerindian Tituba as the famous woman of color of the Salem Witch Trials.
"Candy,” Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive. http://salem.lib.virginia.edu/n23.html
Boyer, Paul, and Stephen Nissenbaum, eds. The Salem Witchcraft Papers: Verbatim Transcripts of the Legal Documents of the Salem Witchcraft Outbreak of 1692 (1977).
Cracker, Wendel. “Spectral Evidence, Non-Spectral Acts of Witchcraft, and Confession at Salem in 1692,” The Historical Journal 40.2 (1997).
Briona S. Jones and Steven J. Niven
Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.
Oxford University Press (USA) African American Studies Center.