History of Rhode Island: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Debra Patuto

Debra has taught at elementary levels and has an M.ed with certification in elementary education and special education

This lesson is about the history of Rhode Island. We'll travel back in time and learn of the people who first settled on the land. We'll also learn about how the colonists and their land eventually became a part of the United States of America.

Rhode Island

Try saying this ten times fast: the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. It's a mouthful! When Rhode Island joined the United States, the name changed to the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. It still, to this day, continues to be the longest name in the nation, even though most people refer to it as just Rhode Island.

Let's travel back in time and explore the history of Rhode Island and how it became a part of the United States of America.

Native Americans

Many Native American tribes first lived in Rhode Island. The largest tribe was the Narragansett tribe. They lived in longhouses, they farmed corn, squash and beans, and they spoke the Algonquian language.

A Native American Longhouse
longhouse

The Europeans

In 1524, European explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano of Italy came to the land. Ninety years later, the Dutch explorer Adriaen Block came to the land. They both met with Native Americans and drew sketches of the land and the coastline to bring back to Europe. Adriaen Block's sketches included the coastline of Narragansett Bay and Block Island. Can you guess who Block Island was named after?

The Colonization

What would you do if you got banished or told to leave and never come back to your homeland? In 1636, Roger Williams was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony because of his belief that people should have religious freedom.

He traveled south of Massachusetts and bought land from the Narragansett tribe. He then set up his own settlement called Providence Plantations. Colonists who wanted religious freedom traveled long distances to live on this plantation.

Other settlements were established on land surrounding Providence Plantations, such as Portsmouth, Newport and Warwick. In 1644, all four settlements formed a single government called the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. In 1663, England granted them a royal charter from the King of England, making it a more official settlement that was under British rule.

King Philip's War

1675 to 1676 was one terrible year in the history of Rhode Island. A war between New England colonists and the Native Americans began.

The chief of the Wampanoag tribe, King Philip, led his tribe in attacks on all settlements in Rhode Island. One of the largest fights was called the Great Swamp Fight, where the Narragansett tribe was attacked and their entire settlement was burned down.

The colonists won these battles and most of the Native Americans died.

War Between Colonists and the Wampanoag
King Philips War

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