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The Folger Spotlight

Words, Words, Words: ‘I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem’ by Maryse Condé

Folger Public Programs continue our virtual book club, Words, Words, Words, into the Halloween season. On Thursday, October 1, we will be welcoming friends from all around the world to discuss Maryse Condé’s I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem. To get ready for the conversation, we’ve compiled some introductory information on this French Grand Prix award-winner for women’s literature.

What is I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem about?

Cover art for 'I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem'

Originally published in French under the title Moi, Tituba, Sorcière…Noire de Salem, the novel was translated into English in 1992 by Richard Philcox with an introduction by activist Angela Davis.

From the publisher’s description:

This wild and entertaining novel expands on the true story of the West Indian slave Tituba, who was accused of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts, arrested in 1692, and forgotten in jail until the general amnesty for witches two years later.

Maryse Condé brings Tituba out of historical silence and creates for her a fictional childhood, adolescence, and old age. She turns her into what she calls “a sort of female hero, an epic heroine, like the legendary ‘Nanny of the maroons,’” who, schooled in the sorcery and magical ritual of obeah, is arrested for healing members of the family that owns her.

Critical Reception

Winner of the1986 French Grand Prix for women’s literature.

“At once playful and searing, Conde’s work critiques ostensibly white, male versions of history and literature by appropriating them.” —Publisher’s Weekly

“Part historical novel, part literary fable, part exploration of the clash of irreconcilable cultures, “I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem” is most of all an affirmation of a courageous and resourceful woman’s capacity for survival.”—The New York Times

“Maryse Condé’s imaginative subversion of historical records forms a critique of contemporary American society and its ingrained racism and sexism that is as discomfiting as Arthur Miller’s critique, based on the same historical material, of McCarthyism and 1950s America in his play ‘The Crucible.’”—Boston Sunday Globe

About the author: Maryse Condé

From UVA press:

Maryse Condé
Maryse Condé

Originally from Guadeloupe, Maryse Condé is Professor Emerita of French and Romance Philology at Columbia University. She is the author of numerous novels, including Heremakhonon, Segu, Crossing the Mangrove, Tales from the Heart, Who Slashed Celanire’s Throat?(winner of the 2005 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for fiction), and The Story of the Cannibal Woman. She now divides her time between New York and Paris.

Her husband, Richard Philcox, is the English-language translator of many of Condé’s novels.

Meet our Bookshop Partner: MahoganyBooks

MahoganyBooks logo

This month, we are excited to partner with MahoganyBooks, located in DC’s historic Anacostia neighborhood. MahoganyBooks believes in social entrepreneurship, and is dedicated to meeting the literary needs of readers in search of books written for, by, or about people of the African Diaspora.

Order online, or by calling 202.844.2062. Please note, some titles may be on backorder or being reprinted via the publisher and will take approximately 1-2 weeks longer to ship. Visit the FAQ page for additional questions.

To learn more, visit


Shakespeare bust with glassesLimited places are still available for our October 1 discussion! Register here, and tune in next week for additional Folger resources to enrich the conversation.