Drop the “Plantations”? An online petition seeks a name change for R.I.




PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE)– “The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” is the official– though seldom used– full name of the state.

While it gives the smallest state the longest name, critics are saying it’s overdue for a change, asking in an on-line petition for the the state to simply stand as “Rhode Island.”

Historians have pointed out that “plantations”, as founder Roger Williams would have used the word in the 1600s, referred to a settled piece of land, not farmland worked by slaves.

Yet the state was largely involved in the slave trade, and and early settlers did own slaves. At one point in the 1700s, slaves made up 10 percent of the population.

But for Warwick resident Tyson Pianka, the author of the Change.org petition, that legacy is something that should not be reflected in the state’s name.

“Is that what we want our state to represent?” Pianka said in an email.

Rhode Island has put the question to voters in the past, with 78 percent rejecting a name change in 2010.

The current petition has over 3,000 signatures, but in order to make it to the ballot vote, no signatures are required. It must be introduced by a bill into the General Assembly, and pass both houses before voters could decide.

ABC 6 reached out to Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello for comment, who declined, telling us through a spokesman that without a bill being put forward on the matter, he would not issue a statement.

©WLNE-TV/ABC 6 2020

Categories: News, Rhode Island