Providence was settled in June 1636 by Puritan theologian Roger Williams and grew into one of the original Thirteen Colonies. As a minister in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Williams had advocated for separation from the Church of England and condemned colonists’ confiscation of land from Native Americans. For these “diverse, new, and dangerous opinions,” he was convicted of sedition and heresy and banished from the colony. Williams and others established a settlement in Rumford, Rhode Island. The group later moved down the Seekonk River, around the point now known as Fox Point and up the Providence River to the confluence of the Moshassuck and Woonasquatucket Rivers. Here they established a new settlement they termed “Providence Plantations.”
Unlike Salem and Boston, Providence lacked a royal charter. The settlers thus organized themselves, allotting tracts on the eastern side of the Providence River in 1638. Roughly six acres each, these home lots extended from Towne Street (now South Main Street) to Hope Street.
In 1652, Providence prohibited African and African American slavery for periods of longer than 10 years. This statute constituted the first anti-slavery law in the United States, though there is no evidence the prohibition was ever enforced.
In March of 1676, Providence Plantations was burned to the ground by the Narragansetts as part of King Philip’s War. Later in the year, the Rhode Island legislature formally rebuked the other colonies for provoking the war.
In 1770, Brown University moved to Providence from nearby Warren. At the time, the college was known as Rhode Island College and occupied a single building on College Hill. The college’s choice to relocate to Providence as opposed to Newport symbolized a larger shift away from the latter city’s commercial and political dominance over the state.