Roger Williams University Remembers Its Namesake
Posted August 2020

In the past five years, Roger Williams University has worked hard to centre their namesake in the curriculum and beyond. All incoming freshman take a seminar on Roger Williams, appropriately titled the "Roger Seminar," which explores Williams' life and legacy. RWU is committed to bringing history to life for its students. As part of the Roger Seminar, RWU students visit sites around Rhode Island connected to Williams. In addition, students spend the night at Plimoth to explore the seventeenth-century English village after dark as Williams would have known it.

RWU has run two trips back to England to "Retrace Roger," where faculty and students visited London, Cambridge and High Laver. The trips, which ran in 2017 and 2019, were a collaborative effort between Dr. Charlotte Carrington-Farmer (History Department at RWU) and John McNiff (Park Ranger at Roger Williams National Memorial). Carrington-Farmer and McNiff plan to run the trip again in 2022 with the hope of installing a marker to Williams at All Saint's Church, High Laver. Below is some of the media coverage of the first trip and the video highlights:

Students to Retrace Roger Williams' Footsteps in England
First-year students will travel Williams' historic path, exploring the history
and significance of Rhode Island's founder as part of the Roger Seminar


In collaboration with Rhode Island Historical Society, RWU has hosted two paleography events linked to Williams, where students interpreted documents and artifacts owned by Williams. RIHS kindly loaned letters by Williams and students worked with Dr. Julie Fisher (American Philosophical Society), Dr. Carrington-Farmer, and Ranger McNiff to transcribe the letters. Students then used a quill and ink to write their own seventeenth -century style letters and seal them using wax. Professor John Farmer (Graphic Design Department, RWU) worked with Dr. Carrington-Farmer's students on typography projects, based on selected words and phrases by Williams, that are now part of an exhibition at Roger Williams National Memorial.

RWU has also hosted outside scholars to share their expertise on campus, notably Teresa Bejan (University of Oxford) was a guest lecturer on "Tolerating Intolerance: What Can Roger Williams Teach Us Today." See video recording below. RWU also hosted Dr. Ted Widmer (Macaulay Honors College) to talk about Williams' legacy, and Dr. Linford Fisher (Brown University) to address Williams' role in enslaving Indigenous Peoples.


Individual faculty have also contributed to the existing scholarship on Williams. Notably, Dr. Charlotte Carrington-Farmer has published the following chapter: "Roger Williams and the Architecture of Religious Liberty" in Jahid Hossain Bhuiyan and Darryn Jenson, eds., Law and Religion and the Liberal State (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2020.) Carrington-Farmer has also written a primary source reader entitled, "Roger Williams: A Brief History with Documents" for students to use in the Roger Seminar. Carrington-Farmer has given guest lectures on Williams for Peace Dale Museum of Art and Culture, Colonial Grand Dames of America, Plimoth, and Smith's Castle. Carrington-Farmer is currently researching the life of Mary Williams, and has presented her initial finding at Plimoth and Little Compton Historical Society.

Roger Williams Family Association Visits Its "Roots"
Posted December 2014

On Saturday, November 15th, members of the Roger Williams Family Association met in Providence visiting Slate Rock Park on Gano Street, believed to be the spot where Roger Williams first set foot in Rhode Island before settling Providence in 1636. Also visited was The Roger Williams National Memorial on North Main Street, where descendants observed Roger's spring and home site.

The group additionally enjoyed a tour of the John Brown House Museum at 52 Power Street where members viewed "the root that ate Roger Williams!" (see photograph below)

In 1683, Roger Williams was buried on his property alongside the orchard which existed behind what is now Benefit Street. In 1860, his remains were moved to a family crypt in the Old North Burial Ground. When digging, they discovered that an apple tree root was in the place where Roger's body had been buried and that it was in his shape. The root had entered the coffin. It curved where Roger's head should have been and entered the chest cavity, growing down the spine. It branched at the two legs, and then upturned into feet! Only dust and dirt remained. In 1939 Roger Williams' remains were again moved and interred in his final resting place under his magnificent statue at Prospect Terrace. But the root remains for all to see.

If you are a lineal descendant of Roger Williams and wish to join the Association, please visit the How To Join page on this website.

Susan Wordell Jacquet
Chair, Publicity Committee


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