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Roger Williams Day

On March 22 every year, Zeta Beta Tau proudly celebrates the life and legacy of Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island who was committed to religious freedom and equality.

See the Roger Williams congressional record honoring March 22 as Roger Williams Day along with Zeta Beta Tau.

Read more about ZBT’s historic celebrations in the Digital Deltan, particularly the Spring 2012 and Spring 2001 editions.

About Roger Williams

Roger Williams is credited as the founder of Rhode Island, the first secular state in the United States.

Born in England in 1603, Williams was raised in a family that was devout to the Church of England. As an adult, however, Williams rebelled and became a Puritan minister.

Williams was ousted from England due to his religious beliefs, and thus immigrated to Massachusetts in 1631. There, he was able to fully practice his religion. Soon after, however, the Puritans of Boston ousted him, due to his belief of the separation of Church and State. He quickly escaped to Narragansett Bay with his family and friends in 1636. Once he settled there, Williams received a charter for the colony of Rhode Island, given to him from the king of England. He became a renowned intermediary between the colonists and the Native Americans.

It was Williams who laid the foundation for founding fathers such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, as signatories of the Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence. To this day, Williams remains as a central theologian who was dedicated to the principles of religious freedom and equality for all.

Read more about Roger Williams.

How to celebrate

Chapters are encouraged to host a Roger Williams Day event on their campus each year. Ideas include:

  • Host a panel discussion: This idea is easy to accomplish. Representatives from many ethnic- or religious-based student groups would be in attendance to discuss campus life from their perspectives.  A panel is highly effective in a virtual space also. If on campus, the event can be immediately followed by a reception with different cuisines from the groups that were a part of the panel.
  • Provide community service at synagogues, churches, mosques, etc.: This idea would provide an opportunity for ZBT to dedicate a day of service to several religions. This has been a very fun and successful project for chapters in the past. Based on the needs of the religious centers, chapters can choose where they would like to paint/plant/build/etc.
  • Bring a speaker to campus: Phi Alpha Alpha Chapter at The George Washington University has had great success with this Roger Williams Day event in recent years. The speakers can be local or long distance. A dessert reception can follow this program.
  • Co-host a barbecue with various campus organizations: Similar to the panel discussion idea, the ZBT brothers would co-host a campus barbecue fundraiser at a small per person cost. All proceeds would go toward local charities with religious missions.

Questions or more

Contact ZBT International Headquarters at zbt@zbtnational.org or (317) 334-1898.