May 4, 1776, must have been a heck of a day in the colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

On that day, Rhode Islanders renounced their allegiance to King George III, becoming the first colony to do so.

When you look at the actual document, which Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea was kind enough to show us, it is a bit of a shock. The second paragraph starts:

“Whereas George the Third King of Great Britain entirely departing from the Duties and Character of a good King instead of protecting is endeavoring to destroy the good People of this Colony and of all the United Colonies by sending Fleets and Armies to America to confiscate our Property and spread Fire Sword and Desolation throughout our Country in order to compel us to submit to the most debasing and detestable Slavery …” and it goes on.

Fightin’ words, to say the least. It almost sounds like a modern rant on Twitter. And what is even more stunning is that there are cross-out marks through that whole paragraph. Did they think twice? A little too bold perhaps? In any event, two months later, on July 4, the Declaration of Independence was signed, and the fight was really on.

In 1909, May 4 was declared Rhode Island Independence Day (although arguably the true Independence Day was not until late July of 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was approved here).

On May 4, 2018, 242 years to the day after the Act of Renunciation was penned, Providence Journal photographers set out to document what people all across Rhode Island were up to on the state's Independence Day. We wanted to see how modern-day descendants of those fiercely independent people spent their day.

To do this, I called on current Journal photographers Sandor Bodo, Bob Breidenbach, Kris Craig, David DelPoio, Glenn Osmundson and Steve Szydlowski, and artist Tom Murphy. Then I reached out to former staff photographers. Dick Benjamin, Kathy Borchers, Mary Murphy, Frieda Squires, and former photo editor Anne Peters all jumped in to help the project.

They started early, before dawn, and were in positions all around the state as the day began. They went from town to town, city to city, to see everything from a Meals on Wheels delivery and prayers at a Catholic School to a newborn baby and nightlife in Providence.

We tried to be as inclusive as possible, looking for many of the quiet moments that tend to fill our days. But we also looked for fun, poignant, and lively moments.

None of this was staged in any way. It is photojournalism at its best.

 -Michael Delaney, Director of Photography and Graphics