Rhode Island legislature considering state name change

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July 1, 2009

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island: The Rhode Island State Senate and Rhode Island House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly, by a score of 70-3, last week to bring the question of a state name-change to the voters. The state has the longest official name in the country: "State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations."Supporters of the bill feel the name acts as a reminder of slavery in the state years ago. Representative Joseph Almeida, an African-American Democrat who sponsored the bill, said "It's high time for us to recognize that slavery happened on plantations in Rhode Island and decide that we don't want that chapter of our history to be a proud part of our name."[1]

Opponents of the bill say that it is an unnecessary glossing over of the state's history that undermines its tradition of religious liberty and tolerance for different viewpoints. Alfred Gemma, a Democratic representative who opposed the measure, said that the proposal amounted to a strategy of revisionism, which he felt "is going to divide people, not bring them together."

Governor Donald Carcieri, opposes the change, but lacks the authority to veto resolutions to constitutional amendments. His spokesperson, Amy Kempe, pointed out that "The historical definition of the word 'plantation' is 'settlement or colony' and is no way in reference to the most modern definition associated with slavery."[2]

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