Rhode Island moves to change state name due to slavery links

by Jordyn Pair · Jun 24th, 2020 4:01 pm
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Last Updated Jun 27th, 2020 at 7:03 pm

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order on Monday calling for the governor's office and other agencies to remove the second half of Rhode Island's official name, "The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations," from official documentation.

The state's name will now read just "Rhode Island" on government documents.

"Many of the State's residents find it painful that a word so closely associated with slavery should appear in the official name of the State," Raimondo wrote in the order. "The pain that this association causes to some of our residents should be of concern to all Rhode Islanders and we should do everything in our power to ensure that all communities can take pride in our State."

The state seal may also be altered to reflect the change.

"I urge the voters to approve the name change in November but will take all measures now that are within my control to eliminate the name from my official communications and those of my executive agencies," Raimondo said in the order.

State Sen. Harold Metts, the state Senate's only black member, introduced legislation last week to call for statewide voting on removing "Providence Plantations" from the state's name. The measure, which passed the state Senate, requires voters to approve changes to the state's constitution.

"Whatever the meaning of the term ‘plantations' in the context of Rhode Island's history, it carries a horrific connotation when considering the tragic and racist history of our nation," Metts told the Providence Journal. "The images that come to mind when I hear the word ‘plantations' are of the inhuman and degrading treatment of the African-Americans who came before me, families ripped apart by slave sales, rapes, and lynchings. It is a hurtful term to so many of us."


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