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"Roger Williams: His Words"

Updated: Apr 17, 2019

Every student at Roger Williams University is required to take CORE.102: Challenges of Democracy -- a course that traces the growing complexity of the idea of democracy by analyzing primary source documents. This course also allows for students to connect key concepts within democratic thought, as well as, learn how they are practiced in the modern world. In the Fall of 2018, every incoming freshman took a Roger Seminar as part of the Core Curriculum.

In the Core Roger Seminar, students learn about our namesake and his legacy. During the Fall 2018 semester, Dr. Charlotte Carrington-Farmer (Associate Professor of History) and Professor John Farmer (Visiting Assistant Professor of Graphic Design) received a Hassenfeld Faculty Fellowship to collaborate on a project entitled: “Roger Williams: His Words.” Our University’s namesake, Roger Williams, never sat for a portrait, thus every picture or statue we have of him is completely imagined. Williams thought sitting for a portrait was vain, and he wanted to be remembered for for his ideas and writing.

With this in mind, students in Professor Carrington-Farmer’s Core 102 Roger Seminar classes analyzed a wide range of letters and pamphlets that Williams wrote to identify his key ideas. Professor Farmer’s Graphic Design students then took the key phrases and turned them into a typography project, centered around remember Williams’ ideas and writings. The typography projects were revealed at a special three-hour event at the Roger Williams University Library as part of the collaboration between the Roger Seminar initiative and the Rhode Island Historical Society (RIHS). The event started with students working with Julie Fisher (American Philosophical

Society) trying to decode Roger Williams’s Letter to William Feild, which was written September 13, 1649, into current language. Through this, students were able to gain hands-on experience; including how to write with quill pens -- something that was demonstrated by John McNiff, a Historian and Park Ranger at Roger Williams National Memorial. Additionally, working with Sara Powell (Beinecke Library, Yale University) they learned techniques on how to fold letters just as Williams did. The Rhode Island Historical Society brought different artifacts for the students to see, such as; Roger Williams’s original compass. Upon successful completion, the exhibition was moved to the front windows at the Roger Williams National Memorial in Providence.

If interested, make sure you stop by and see these pieces of Rhode Island history. They will only be on display for part of the new year!

written by: Kerry Clark

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