Rhode Island Moves To Change Its Longer, Official Name Because Of Its Ties To Slavery
The state, officially Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, will soon be just Rhode Island if constituents vote in favor of the measure.
The state of Rhode Island, officially named Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, is working to change its name because of its connection to slavery.
On Monday, Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order that will revise the name on government documents, reports CBS News. Now, only Rhode Island will appear on official communications from the governor’s office, including executive orders and citations. The state’s website, as well as state agency websites, will be rid of the word “plantations,” 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," Raimondo 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."
During a news conference held at a public park in Providence, Raimondo, the first woman to hold the position, agreed with a resident who shouted the current name is “demoralizing," reports NPR.
"It's demoralizing," Raimondo agreed. "It's a slap in the face, it's painful."
According to the order, executive offices “shall determine whether there is an available alternative to the use of the state seal in official documents and replace or omit such seal where possible,” reports The Hill.
The state’s Senate unanimously voted on a bill — which was introduced by five senators, including the state’s only Black senator, Harold Metts — to place the name change on the ballot in November.
"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 in a statement. "It is a hurtful term to so many of us."
Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza advised that the measure may be stalled at the voting booth, as it was in 2010. During that vote, 78% of voters opposed the amendment.
“We know that 10 years ago when this was put to the voters, it failed pretty bad," Elorza said. "That means that statewide, it is an unpopular thing to do, but it is the right thing to do and because of that, I give you all the credit, Governor."
“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.
A young organizer of the protests occurring in the state thanked the governor for listening to the constituents' concerns.
"This is what we wanted. This is what gives me hope to continue," said 16-year-old Faith Quinnea. "Knowing our voices were heard and respected is a different kind of joy. I'm proud to stand here and say I participated in the difference."
A petition supporting the name alteration currently has over 7,000 signatures.
As reported by NPR, theologian Roger Williams, a founder of the Rhode Island settlement, added “Providence Plantations” to its name. At the time, the word "plantation" just meant a new settlement, but by the 18th century, the state dominated the slave trade and had a higher proportion of slaves in its population than any other northern state.
Rhode Island Senate President Dominick Ruggiero and Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello advocated for the revision in a joint statement
"We both support placing on the ballot this November the decision whether to remove the word 'and Providence Plantations' from the state's name," the legislative leaders wrote. "In the meantime, we know this is an important issue to a lot of people, so the General Assembly will be removing the reference to 'Plantations' from Assembly documents."