A very Roger Thanksgiving


Emily Dvareckas

Roger Williams was an advocate for religious freedoms and helped create relationships with native tribes that inhabited the land.

Growing up, the story of the Pilgrims’ landing at Plymouth Rock was the most notable tale about the first Thanksgiving. However, the Thanksgiving that is celebrated each year on the last Thursday of November should be attributed to Roger Williams, not the Pilgrims, even though Williams arrived in Massachusetts 10 years after the famous first Thanksgiving.

So how did Roger Williams start the tradition of Thanksgiving? When the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts, they were Puritans looking for religious liberty after being persecuted in England. But they did not hold the same ideals as Williams so famously did. They wanted religious freedom, but only for their religion and sect.

That is where the school’s namesake comes in. Williams had been banished for spreading new and dangerous ideas. This banishment led to the creation of the place Roger Williams University students call home. Williams believed in a separation of church and state and he believed that everyone was free to practice their own religions. He befriended the natives that had already been living on the land he fled to.

The story of the first Thanksgiving is riddled with falsehoods and consists of an over-glorification of the Puritans. So, while sitting around the dinner table surrounded by family, take time to thank Roger Williams. Remember him while prayers are said, no matter what religion or god it is directed to. Think of him even if the dinner commences without a prayer — it is a freedom given to Americans to do as they please with their beliefs.