Due to a strong British influence, the preferred method of execution in the colonies was hanging. But in America’s early years, more barbaric methods were also occasionally used. Slaves who murdered their masters (or raped or murdered any white person), women who killed their husbands and other more serious offenders were often burned at the stake. The targeting of slaves, particularly black women, is tied to a racist belief that blacks could bear more pain than their white counterparts, says Trina Seitz, a professor at Appalachian State University in North Carolina who has studied the history of the death penalty. Right, a slave is burned alive after a slave rebellion in in 1741. Other exotic methods were also used. Left, Giles Cory was crushed to death after refusing to enter a plea during the Salem Witch Trials, as part of a torturous process called peine forte et dure designed to elicit a plea. Quartering and the breaking wheel were also sometimes used.
- On this day: The end of the Salem witch trials (thejc.com)
- Seven deep mysteries of history (msnbc.msn.com)