Who was Roger Williams?

Background image is The Landing of Roger Williams in 1636, painted in 1857 by Alonzo Chappel, American, 1828-1887, housed in the RISD Museum

For more information about the painting visit the RISD Museum website.

Rhode Island founder Roger Williams was a remarkable man. He set the standard for separation of church and state that the nation adopted, and his vision and determination built the “lively experiment” that was and is Rhode Island. Many of his values are more relevant than ever.

We encourage you to view him as the complex man he was. Roger Williams was both incredibly forward-thinking and very much a man of his time. We are committed to presenting a complete and accurate portrayal, which means we have stayed as true as possible to verifiable information while recognizing that many details are lost to history and some are still emerging. While he is not perfect and there is much we do not know, we believe that Roger’s character and legacy are worthy of reflection and admiration.


"The King's Majesty, though his father's and his own conscience favored Lord Bishops, which their father and grandfather, King James, whom I have spoke with, sore against his wil, also did. ... he [King Charles II.] hath vouchsafed his royal promise, under his hand and broad seal, that no person in this colon shall be molested or questioned for the matters of his conscience to God so he be loyal and keep the civil peace. Sir, we must part with land and lives before we part with such a jewel."

SOURCE: John Osborne Austin, editor, The Roger Williams Calendar (Central Falls: E.L. Freeman and Sons, 1897)


What does Roger Williams’s legacy means for us, our community, or the world? We’ve asked people with relevant insights and experience to participate in a series of guest blog posts, or “Reflections on Roger.” Check back for updated Reflections throughout the year.