The History of Rhode Island

William Blackstone was the first white settler to inhabit the area known as Rhode Island today. He settled near a river that was later named for him but was not actually the first documented settlement. Providence is given credit for being the first settlement in Rhode Island established by Roger Williams and his followers. These settlers went on to be the founders of Newport, Portsmouth, and Warwick as well.

To secure their land and religious freedom, Rhode Island sent Roger Williams to England in 1643 to have a patent issued for the four towns. The king was more than happy to grant them their freedom as it meant that he still had the supreme rule over the area. Rhode Island’s settlements were almost wiped out during King Philip’s War in 1675. This war, between the New England Native Americans and the settlers, lasted over 10 years and cost the lives of many natives and settlers.

During this conflict, thousands of Indians and over 600 colonists were killed. The settlements on Rhode Island’s mainland were destroyed during the war, ruining the colonists’ accomplishments and forcing them to start over. After the natives were subdued, the economy of Rhode Island began to flourish. The population steadily grew over the next 60 years to almost quadruple its initial size. Sugar and maritime trade were the top moneymakers at the time and are what brought about the American Revolution. The Sugar Act and other taxes that hit the colony in the 1760s caused a huge backlash and the war began. In 1774, Stephen Hopkins set his mark in history by introducing a bill into the Rhode Island Assembly that prohibited the importation of slaves into the colony.

This became one of the first anti-slavery laws in the new United States. In February 1784 the Rhode Island Legislature passed laws that allowed for the emancipation of all slaves within a set time frame. Rhode Island is remembered throughout history as being the state that started the domino effect in abolishing slavery forever. Rhode Island was also one of the original 13 states in the well-fought war of the North and South. This northern state-supplied most of the industrial materials used in making all of the materials needed for the North to win the war.

Before the 1900s, the state had already abolished all slavery and was moving into the next era of industrialization. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) came to power in the area around the 1920s but was soon overwhelmed by the tremendous support of Rhode Islanders to support the African Americans in the area. The history of Rhode Island has been written in blood by all the brave souls who gave their lives so that this state could be remembered in history forever.