4-39 The State of Rhode Island

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The great state of Rhode Island became the 13th state in the Union on May 29, 1790 .  Its state capital is Providence.

The Indigenous people, called “Indians” by Columbus, were the first inhabitants of present-day Rhode Island.  Rhode Island and its coastline were claimed by several explorers, including medieval Irish adventurers, Norsemen, Portuguese navigator Miguel Corte-Real, and Italian navigator Giovanni Verrazano.  In 1524, Verrazano “discovered an island in the form of a triangle, about the size of the (Greek) Island of Rhodes,” which he named Luisa after the Queen Mother of France. This was Block Island.  Roger Williams and other settlers thought that Verrazano was referring to Aquidneck Island and changed that island’s native name to Rhode Island.  In this way, Verrazano inadvertently gave the state part of its official name.   In 1614, English explorer John Smith explored the New England coast and Dutch mariner Adriaen Block visited Block Island, naming it for himself.

In 1620, settlers from Plymouth Colony and Massachusetts Bay came to the region to trade with native tribes.  At the time, Rhode Island was inhabited by several native tribes.  The largest tribe  was the Narragansetts, occupying an area along Narragansett Bay.  The northwest corner of the state was home to the Nipmucks, while the Wampanoags held territory within Providence and Warwick.  The Cowesetts, the Shawomets, and the Niantics also lived in the Delaware area.

Roger Williams founded the first permanent white settlement in Rhode Island at Providence in 1636 on land purchased from the Narragansett Indians. Forced to flee Massachusetts because of persecution, Williams established a policy of religious and political freedom in his new settlement. Other leaders advocating freedom of worship soon established similar communities on either side of Narragansett Bay.  Rhode Island was the first colony to prohibit the importation of slaves.

At the start of the Revolutionary War, the people from Rhode Island were among the first colonists to take action against British rule by attacking British vessels.  On May 4, 1776, Rhode Island was the first colony to break from Great Britain and declare independence.  Although no major battles took place in the state, Rhode Island regiments participated in every major campaign of the war.   General Nathanael Greene, second-in-command to General George Washington, and Commodore Esek Hopkins, Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Navy, both from Rhode Island, distinguished themselves as military leaders.  The first Black regiment to fight for America, fought against the British in the Battle of Rhode Island.  Rhode Island was the last of the 13 original colonies to ratify the U.S. Constitution, demanding that the Bill of Rights, which guarantees individual liberties, be added.

Emblem/Symbol Name of Emblem/Symbol Adopted
Motto "Hope"  
Nicknames The Ocean State, Little Rhody  
State Seal 1875
State Bird Rhode Island Red 1954
State Flower Violet 1968
State Song "Rhode Island's Its For Me" 1996
State Tree Red Maple 1964
State Flag 1897
State Fruit Rhode Island Greening 1991
State Fish Stripe Bass 2000
State Drink Coffee Milk 1993
State Mineral Bowenite 1966
State Rock Cumberlandite 1966

Complete the questions below.

1.  Rhode Island became the 13th state in the Union on May 29, .

2.  The state motto is "."

3.  The state capital is .

4.  The state song is "."

5.  founded the first permanent white settlement in Rhode Island.

6.  Its nickname is the Ocean State or .

7.  The state flower is the .

8.  Rhode Island's state drink is .

9.  Bowenite is the state .

10.  Rhode Island Greening is the state .



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