So, there's a good chance Rhode Island will soon be changing its name, according to a news report from last week*
Why? Well, there are advocates who argue that shortening it will make a statement against slavery.
Slavery? Isn't it a little late in the day to take a principled stand on that?
Here, so far as I can follow it, is more or less how the argument goes. The full official name of what we were all taught in school to call 'Rhode Island' is actually "The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations" -- the longest name for the smallest state. That's because, tiny as it is, it's actually made up of the union of two original colonies: one on The Island (originally Rhode Island, now sometimes called Aquidneck Island) and the other on the mainland called the Providence Plantations. To some folks today, the word "plantation" is inseparably mixed with the slave plantations that developed a century or so later in the South. Hence, they argue, removing the words "Providence Plantations" from the state's name will somehow be striking a blow for freedom. Somehow. Aside from pointing out that they're about a hundred and forty years too late, it's deeply ironic that "Providence Plantations" was actually the colony founded by the man who was pretty much America's first abolitionist, Roger Williams, so that this change actually eliminates some of his admirable legacy.
What next? Legislators in Arkansas moving to change the spelling back to "Arkansaw" so clueless out-of-staters can pronounce it right? Or folks in one of the Dakotas changing their state's name to just "Dakota" so that the other (whether "North" or "South") looks like a poor relation, a la "Virginia" and "West Virginia"?
reading Le Guin
2 days ago