Houghton Mifflin Social Studies
America Will Be

Roger Williams — Puritan Dissenter

Objective: Students research Roger Williams' life and beliefs, including those which challenged Puritan thought, and create a display of what they found.

What You Need:

Suggested Time:
2-3 hours over 2 days

Building Background:
Review with students the importance of religion in Puritan society and the ways in which it affected community and government. Remind students that Puritans believed church members should have more influence in the community than non-church members, non-church members could not vote, church membership was restricted, and other religions were not tolerated. Ask students to speculate as to what kinds of challenges dissenters might have faced in trying to practice their beliefs. Make a list of these on the chalkboard and discuss. When finished, tell students they will be learning more about one dissenter, Roger Williams, who founded the Rhode Island Colony.

What To Do:

1. Divide students into small groups. Assign each group a topic: Roger Williams' background and history, his beliefs and attitudes, his interactions with Native Americans, his interactions with other Puritans, or his interactions with non-Puritan Europeans.

2. Have each group research its topic. Remind students to keep notes on their research. Students can use their school or local library to research Williams' life.

3. When students have completed their research, have them share their information in a class discussion. What were Roger Williams' beliefs? Did these beliefs change over time? How did they affect his interactions with others? Discuss the ways in which some of Roger Williams' beliefs, which seemed so radical to many at the time, later came to be part our political and social systems.

4. Have each student write a letter to Roger Williams expressing the ways in which the United States has or has not adopted his ideals and values.

Encourage students to read their letters aloud and discuss those views held by Roger Williams that are found in the United States today.


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