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Legislature moves to remove 'Plantations' from state's name

The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations might lose the distinction of having the longest name of any state if lawmakers and residents favor an amendment to the state constitution.

The Senate and the House of Representatives have passed identical bills to shorten the state's official name to the State of Rhode Island. Last month, they also approved a proposal to allow residents to vote on the change in a statewide referendum in November 2010.

Though the bills are identical, one chamber will have to pass the bill approved by the other after the summer recess for the issue to move to the referendum.

"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," Rep. Joseph Almeida, D-Dist. 12, who sponsored the House bill, said in a statement.

State Sen. Rhoda Perry, D- Dist. 3 said she supported putting the question of a change to the state's name to a referendum so that "all citizens could make that determination."

Perry, a co-sponsor of the Senate bill, said she was "inclined to vote for the changes" when the referendum reaches the ballot.

But not everyone is in favor of the name change.

In a July 11 editorial in the Providence Journal, Keith Stokes, director of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce wrote, "For me, it is profoundly ironic that the name Plantations in Rhode Island would be reviled as a symbol of oppression, when in historical truth the name should be synonymous with civil liberty and rights, not African slavery."

If amended, the preamble to Rhode Island's constitution would read "We, the people of this State which state shall henceforth be known as the state of Rhode Island, grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing upon our endeavors to secure and to transmit the same unimpaired to succeeding generations, do ordain and establish this Constitution of government."



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