Rhode Island Looks To Change Official State Name Due To Ties To Slavery
The state of Rhode Island is looking to change its official name of “The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” due to the ties that it has to slavery, according to a report by CBS News.
An executive order was signed by Governor Gina Raimondo to change the state name on government documents to “Rhode Island”. The name will also appear that way in official communications from the governor and on the state’s website. The word “plantation” will be removed from state agency websites and official correspondence.
"Rhode Island was founded on the principles of acceptance and tolerance, and our state's name – and actions – should reflect those values," Raimondo tweeted.
The state legislature is working on a bill that would change the name of the state completely.
"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 said. "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."
Over 7,300 people signed a petition in support of the name change. After the bill was introduced to the state Senate by the state’s only Black senator, Harold Metts, the Senate unanimously called for a statewide vote on the name change.
"Whatever the history of the term is in Rhode Island, it is an unnecessary and painful reminder of our nation's racist past," Metts said. "It is a hurtful term to so many of us."
Voters will now need to vote in favor of an amendment to Rhode Island’s constitution in November before the official name of the state can be changed completely. When the state tried this same procedure in 2010, 78% of voters voted against removing “Providence Plantations” from the name. Metts has hope that recent events will change the outcome of the vote this time around.
"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. "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."
Read the full report here.