“The Highlight of my College Career”

Briyanna Ledbetter stands in front of the British MuseumFor years, Bryanna Ledbetter ‘22 wondered how much of what she learned about the Salem witch trials in elementary school was true. The summer before her senior year at Carolina, she had a unique opportunity to explore that history.

As a recipient of the Anne L. Robinson and S. Epes Robinson Honors Fellowship, Ledbetter spent a week in Salem, Massachusetts, and a month in London examining how witch trials are held in collective memory. “I wanted to see how the epicenters of persecution view the witch trials today and reckon with that history,” she explained.

The Salem trip established a baseline, and in London Ledbetter combed through references in the British Library, British Museum and Museum of London. She also traveled to Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk, England, where witch trials dating back to 1599 served as a blueprint for those in Salem in the 1690s.

That research experience was life-changing, Ledbetter said. The first-generation college student from Hudson, North Carolina, had never been out of the country before, and the trip to Salem was only her second time on an airplane. On top of that, it was the summer of 2021 in the midst of the COVID pandemic.

“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified at the beginning, but this experience was honestly the highlight of my college career,” Ledbetter said. “I never thought I could live in London for a month and conduct my dream research, and it solidified that history is what I am meant to pursue.”

Learn more about the private support providing Honors Carolina students with world-class learning opportunities…

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