Rhode Island name change?

One of the most interesting things about yesterday’s election was a referendum to change the name of the state of Rhode Island. Rhode Island’s official name is “The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.” The referendum sought to change the name simply to Rhode Island. Those who sought to change the same said that “Plantation” stirred up memories of the slave trade.

Ironically, Roger Williams, the man who first used the word to signify those who were planting a colony in the area, was opposed to slavery. When the term was being used in 1640s Rhode Island, it had nothing to do with cash crops and the slave trade.

Advocates of the name change said the history didn’t matter. The modern mind would picture images of slavery. Rhode Islanders should have a name they could all be proud of.

I am all for racial sensitivity. I believe in the equality of all. But, I wonder if, rather than changing the name, it might be wise to educate Rhode Islanders on what their state has always stood for. Williams not only opposed slavery, he advocated fair practices toward Native Americans.

Instead of changing the name, why not instruct people about the principles of the man who founded Rhode Island.

Apparently, the voters saw the change as unnecessary, 78% said no need to change the name. So, the official name remains a mouthful, but not a mark against the state.

Instead of wiping away the past, we would do well to explain it and learn from it.


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