Rhode Island moves to change its state name due to slavery ties

Rhode Island moves to change its state name due to slavery ties

Rhode Island is moving forward with changing its official name due to slavery ties. CBS reports Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order on Monday that will change the state’s official name — “The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” — that appears on government documents. The order shortens the name to

Rhode Island is moving forward with changing its official name due to slavery ties.

CBS reports Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order on Monday that will change the state’s official name — “The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” — that appears on government documents. The order shortens the name to simply “Rhode Island” and removes the word “plantations” from governor communications and all state agency websites and correspondence, effective “as soon as practicable.”

“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,” the Democratic governor wrote. “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.”

According to The Hill, the state’s legislature said it will move forward with a bill to change the name entirely. Senate legislation will put a referendum on the November ballot, allowing voters to approve the name change.

“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,” said Harold Metts, Rhode Island’s only Black state senator, who introduced the bill.

National Geographic points out that “plantations” are most commonly associated with landowners in southern U.S. states that used slaves for agricultural labor to produce cash crops like tobacco and cotton.

The death of George Floyd, a Black man who died when a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes, has sparked nationwide protests and calls for racial justice. Other changes that have occurred in recent weeks include Aunt Jemima vowing to change its name and logo, which was based on minstrel shows with white men performing vaudeville in blackface.

The Providence Journal reports Rhode Island previously made a ballot measure to remove the phrase “and Providence Plantations” in 2010, but nearly 78% of voters opposed it at the time.

“A decade has passed since the public was asked this question. Attitudes may have changed substantially, even in the past few years — and even in the past few weeks,” Metts said in a statement.

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