Tituba and the Parris Family

Little is known about Tituba's life aside from her connection to the Parris family, primarily because she was a slave but also because she came from far-away Barbados. It is believed that Parris bought Tituba and her husband John Indian while living in Barbados in the 1670s. He took them to Boston, Massachusetts, in 1680 after his failed business attempts in Barbados convinced him to seek a job as a pastor in New England. Eventually he was hired to start a church in Salem Village. Tituba and John Indian moved to Salem with Parris in 1688 and were immediately considered outsiders in this small, isolated town where owning a slave, particularly a Carib rather than an African, was uncommon. Tituba and John Indian were given the majority of the indoor and outdoor chores of the household. Tituba was also in charge of caring for the children while the Parrises were making social calls in the parish.

Eight people shared the Parris home in Salem Village. The Parris family, which included two other children in addi tion to daughter Betty and cousin Abigail, and Tituba and John Indian all lived in a two-story, four-bedroom house that was rather large by local standards. Though the house was heated by a large central fireplace, winters were so cold that water would freeze on the hearth. Daily life was grueling, especially for the slave couple and the children. They would rise in the dark and gather to pray by the hearth. Breakfast was eaten by candlelight and then the work of the day began. Typical for the era, girls and women began with sewing, spinning, cooking, washing, and cleaning. Basically anything the family required for daily life was made at home, so days were filled with chores like making bread, butter, ale, clothing, candles, and other things. Men had no chores in the winter and were free to socialize. In the Parris home John Indian took care of any outside manual labor while Tituba tended to most of the indoor chores. The children took breaks only for meals at midday and evening and for nightly prayer sessions. Recreational activities and social visits were minimal for both slaves and children, for even when the weather warmed up leisure was considered sinful by Parris, a strict and pious (strongly religious) Puritan minister. (Puritans were a Protestant Christian group who believed in rigid social and religious rules.)

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