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Rhode Iseland at the end of the 20th century


The breaker in Rhode Island
The breaker in Rhode Island

From the 1950s through the 1970s, Rhode Island’s textile industry continued to decline. Textile employees decreased from more than 60,000 in 1950 to fewer than 15,000 in the late 1970s. Manufacturing in general declined in importance, especially in the 1950s and 1960s, except for the jewelry industry. Retail and wholesale trade, service industries, education, government, and tourism grew. A severe economic blow came in 1973 when the U.S. Navy, the state’s largest employer, announced that the Newport Naval Base and the Quonset Point Naval Air Station would close, eliminating 4,000 civilian and 17,000 military jobs. Although the conversion of the Quonset base to an industrial park created some new jobs, especially at Quonset’s Electric Boat facility, unemployment remained high through the early 1980s.

Democrats dominated Rhode Island’s politics through most of the period from the 1950s to the mid-1990s. The General Assembly remained overwhelmingly Democratic since reapportionment in the mid-1960s. With two exceptions, Democratic governors held office from 1951 until 1985. After that date, the governor’s office switched between Democrats and Republicans. A series of corruption scandals dominated the state’s politics beginning in the mid-1980s, involving the governor, mayors, and Supreme Court justices, among others. Political and business corruption was so widespread that the U.S. attorney who prosecuted many of the cases, Lincoln Almond, was catapulted into the governor’s office in the 1994 elections. Almond campaigned on a platform of restoring honest and economical government.

By 1986 the state’s economy was again robust and unemployment had fallen to its lowest level in decades. Services and high-technology industries accounted for most of the growth in jobs and income.

In the 1980s, real estate values in the Providence area grew faster than those in any other metropolitan area in the United States. Rhode Island’s economic boom of the mid-1980s was followed by a sharp recession beginning in 1989, during which the state’s credit union system collapsed, property values plummeted, unemployment rose, and thousands of manufacturing jobs were lost, even in the jewelry industry.

Hard times caused the state’s population, which for the first time had topped 1 million in the census of 1990, to dip below that mark, even though Hispanic and Southeast Asian communities grew. A gradual economic upturn began in 1993, and major construction projects were launched in downtown Providence, including Waterplace Park, a new luxury hotel, and the urban mall called Providence Place. Although the Narragansett people had been legally declared extinct by the Rhode Island General Assembly in 1880, they incorporated in 1934 and gained federal recognition in 1983. In 1978 a claim filed by the Narragansett to regain ancestral lands in Rhode Island was settled, giving them 728 hectares (1,800 acres) in Charlestown. In the mid-1990s the Narragansett had 2,400 members, most of whom lived in Rhode Island. "Rhode Island" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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