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Rhode Island

Rhode Island officially the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. Rhode Island is the smallest in area, the eighth least populous, and the second most densely populated of the 50 U.S. states, following New Jersey. Its official name is also the longest of any state in the Union. Rhode Island is bordered by Connecticut to the west, Massachusetts to the north and east, and the Atlantic Ocean to the south via Rhode Island Sound and Block Island Sound. The state also shares a short maritime border with New York.
On May 4, 1776, the Colony of Rhode Island became the first of the Thirteen Colonies to renounce its allegiance to the British Crown, and was the fourth among the newly sovereign states to ratify the Articles of Confederation on February 9, 1778. It boycotted the 1787 convention that drew up the United States Constitutionand initially refused to ratify it. On May 29, 1790, Rhode Island became the 13th and last state to ratify the Constitution.
Rhode Island’s official nickname is “The Ocean State”, a reference to the fact that the state has several large bays and inlets that amount to about 14% of its total area. Rhode Island covers 1,214 square miles (3,144 km2), of which 1,045 square miles (2,707 km2) are land.
Despite its name, most of Rhode Island is located on the mainland of the United States. The official name of the state is State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, which is derived from the merger of four settlements. Rhode Island is now commonly called Aquidneck Island, the largest of several islands in Narragansett Bay, which included the settlements of Newport and Portsmouth. Providence Plantation was the name of the colony founded by Roger Williams in the area now known as the city of Providence. This was adjoined by the settlement of Warwick; hence the plural Providence Plantations.
It is unclear how Aquidneck Island came to be known as Rhode Island, although there are two popular theories.

  • Explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano noted the presence of an island near the mouth of Narragansett Bay in 1524, which he likened to the island of Rhodes (part of modern Greece). Subsequent European explorers were unable to precisely identify the island that Verrazzano had named, but the Pilgrims who later colonized the area assumed that it was Aquidneck.
  • A second theory concerns the fact that Adriaen Block passed by Aquidneck during his expeditions in the 1610s, described in a 1625 account of his travels as “an island of reddish appearance” (in 17th-century Dutch “een rodlich Eylande”).Historians have theorized that this “reddish appearance” resulted from either red autumn foliage or red clay on portions of the shore.

” for Aquidneck was in 1637 by Roger Williams. The name was officially applied to the island in 1644 with these words: “Aquethneck shall be henceforth called the Isle of Rodes or Rhode-Island.” The name “Isle of Rodes” is used in a legal document as late as 1646. Dutch maps as early as 1659 call the island “Red Island” (Roodt Eylant).
Williams was a theologian forced out of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Seeking religious and political tolerance, he and others founded Providence Plantation as a free proprietary colony. “Providence” referred to the concept of divine providence, and “plantation” was an English term for a colony. “State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” is the longest official name of any state in the Union.
In recent years, the presence of the word plantation in the state’s name became a sufficiently contested issue that, on June 25, 2009, the General Assembly voted to hold a general referendum determining whether “and Providence Plantations” would be dropped from the official name. Advocates for excising plantation asserted that the word specifically referred to the British colonial practice of establishing settlements which disenfranchised native people. They argued that the word symbolized, for many Rhode Islanders, a legacy of violent native disenfranchisement, but also of the proliferation of slavery in the colonies and in the post-colonial United States. (Rhode Island abolished slavery in 1652, but the law was not enforced and, by the early 1700s, it was “the epicenter of the North American slave trade”, according to the Brown Daily Herald.) Advocates for retaining the name argued that plantation was simply an archaic English synonym for colony and bore no relation to slavery. The referendum election was held on November 2, 2010, and the people voted overwhelmingly (78% to 22%) to retain the entire original name.

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