Rhode Island Name Change Amendment, Question 1 (2010)
|Rhode Island Constitution|
|Preamble • I • II • III • IV • V • VI • VII • VIII • IX • X • XI • XII • XIII • XIV • XV|
- See also: 2010 ballot measure election results
Official election results of the measure follow:
|Question 1 (State Name Change)|
Official results via Rhode Island State Board of Elections
Text of amendment
Approval of the amendment to the Title, Preamble and Section 3 of Article III of the Rhode Island Constitution set forth below will have the effect of changing the official name of the State from "State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations" to "State of Rhode Island":
Short title summary
- To approve and publish, and submit the electors a proposition of amendment to the Constitution of the State (Change the name of the State).
- Voting for Rhode Island was the main committee that was in support of the measure. The committee was of the umbrella group, The Univocal Legislative Minority Advisory Coalition. According to the group: “This campaign is not about dividing Rhode Islanders. It is about collectively turning a page on a shameful past and creating a new history that all Rhode Islanders can take pride in creating.”
- Representative Joseph Almeida, who sponsored the bill, said at the time, "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."
Legislative members that were in support of the measure include:
- The Vote for Rhode Island campaign listed the following arguments on their website to vote in support of the measure:
- "This effort is not intended to rewrite history, but to create a better future for the generations of Rhode Islanders yet to come into existence."
- "Clearly, no one alive today is responsible for the crimes of the past, however it is our responsibility to acknowledge our history as to ensure that the remnants of a hurtful past are discussed and laid to rest."
- "Voting For Rhode Island recognizes that when Roger Williams named the area "Providence Plantations" he did so without malice; however, as the state would go on to take a lead in the slave trade, the word "Plantation" would eventually change into a very negative term."
- Keith Stokes, Executive Director for the Rhode Island Ecomonic Council, who traced his ancestry to African slaves brought to colonial Newport in the 17th century, opposed this measure. He was also the previous executive director of the Newport Chamber of Commerce. Stokes said that changing the name would be “at best historical revisionism and at worst downright censorship. I strongly urge Rhode Islanders to reject any effort to rewrite Rhode Island history by eliminating 'plantations' from our official state name. We learn more by looking at ourselves honestly in the clear light of day than we do by hiding or uselessly trying to erase our past.” 
- Governor Donald Carcieri, opposed the change, but lacked 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."
- Representative Michael Rice opposed the measure, stating that the name dated back to the earliest days of the state's colonial era, which was established in the 1630's and 1640's and did not refer to the slave trade. According to Rice, who did note that Rhode Island did have a hand in the slave trade, "This is a sad part of Rhode Island history, but it, pretty much, antedates, actually, the word 'plantations' within the name of the state." Rice also opposes the name change because, "There is something majestic about the name when it is said in open court."
- Brian Stinson, a professional research historian and writer, who specialized on Newport History, was on the record stating “Will the November election be the first time voters anywhere could change history? Those seeking to shorten the state’s name have no documentation to support their case. This misguided initiative is based on myth, not fact. Falsely and mistakenly linking the “plantation” with slavery in Rhode Island could wipe out the accomplishments of founders Roger Williams and John Clarke and shred one of the most important pieces of our state’s history, which – when true and accurate – should be shared by all. In this case, the name had nothing to do with slavery – period." The word “plantation” means men banding together to form a colony. The Oxford English Dictionary defines plantation as “A settlement in a new or conquered country; a colony; An estate or farm, esp. in a tropical or subtropical country,…; The action of establishing or founding anything, e.g. a religion; A company of settlers or colonists, etc.”
- According to State Senator Leo Blais, “Everyone who I've spoken to thinks the General Assembly is insane to be dealing with this issue with all the other social and financial issues we're facing."
The following were arguments against the measure and it's potential impact, had it passed:
- The Charter of 1663, which established Rhode Island’s sovereignty, bound Rhode Island together with the northern mainland towns of Warwick and Providence (the Providence Plantations), forming the colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, a designation used decades before the first African slaves arrived in 1696.
- Rhode Island’s leaders subsequently enacted similar legislation, including the first conscientious objection law in America (1673), an Indian anti-slavery law (1676), and the first slavery non-importation law in America (1774). Although these early statutes did not prohibit slavery, they marked the beginning a succession of laws that led to abolition, according to reports.
- Historian Keith Stokes' viewpoint can be quoted: "All this leads to my point that I do recognize that the word "plantations" might legitimately be interpreted by some as evoking a negative reference to the plantations of the ante-bellum South. However, I also know that removing the name will not remove the past practices of history, right or wrong. This would provide an opportunity for educational enlightenment and open discussion that would bring Rhode Islanders together rather than divide them."
- A poll conducted by WPRI 12 showed strong opposition to changing the state name. The results of the poll follow:
|Date of Poll||Pollster||In favor||Opposed||Undecided||Number polled|
|October 2010||WPRI 12||16%||71%||13%||500|
Path to the ballot
The measure was introduced by Representatives Joseph Almeida, Anastasia Williams and Grace Diaz on February 4, 2009. Section 1 of Article 14 of the Rhode Island Constitution says that the Rhode Island General Assembly can initiate the process of amendment "by a roll call vote of a majority of the members elected to each house." Lawmakers approved the measure's ballot placement by a vote of 70-3.
- Rhode Island legislature considering state name change
- Rhode Island 2010 ballot measures
- 2010 ballot measures
- Sample ballot for the Rhode Island ballot questions
- RI to vote on dropping 'Plantations' from its name
- Providence Journal, "Bid to alter state's name stirs passions", October 6, 2010
- Rhode Island Secretary of State, "Sample Ballot", Retrieved September 24, 2010
- Providence Journal, "Panel to discuss referendum to take ‘plantations’ out of R.I. name", October 5, 2010
- State of Rhode Island, "H 5291", February 4, 2009
- The Huffington Post, "Rhode Island Slavery Legacy Prompting Name Change", June 25, 2009
- The New York Times, "Rhode Island Weighs Using Shorter Official Name", June 29, 2009
- Voting For Rhode Island, "One Voice, One State, One People", Retrieved October 18, 2010
- Eyes of Glory, August 22, 2010
- Inform.com, "Rhode Island debates changing state name", Retrieved October 14, 2010
- NPR.org, "Lawmaker Opposes Rhode Island Name Change", June 30, 2009
- Newport-Now, Retrieved October 14, 2010
- News Blog, Retrieved October 14, 2010
- Newport-Now, "Know the facts before voting on Rhode Island name change", Retrieved October 14, 2010
- Eyes of Glory, Retrieved October 14, 2010
- WPRI.com', "Poll: Few will vote to change RI's name", October 29, 2010
- Rhode Island General Assembly, "2009 H 5291"
- The Rhode Show, "The Buzz: Should RI change it's name?", June 30, 2009
State of Rhode Island
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