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Rhode Island moves to rid state name of slavery connotation

“Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” has already been removed from all official state documents.

Rhode Island AP

Rhode Island’s name may be getting an update. The state’s official name is Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Some residents consider the inclusion of “plantations” to be a painful reminder of the state’s history as a massive site for North American slave trading and have been calling for government to change the name for over 30 years.

On Monday (June 22) this change got a little closer, as Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo announced that the phrase “Providence Plantations” would no longer be included in official state documents and moved that it be retired all together.

“This morning I signed an executive order removing the phrase Providence Plantations from gubernatorial orders and citations, all executive branch agency websites, all official correspondence, and state employee pay stubs and paychecks,” Raimondo during a press conference.

“We can’t ignore the image conjured by the word ‘plantation.’ We can’t ignore how painful that is for Black Rhode Islanders to see that and have to see that as part of their state’s name.”

Likewise, the Rhode Island Senate also passed a resolution that will put the permanent state name change up for a vote this November. The state’s House of Representatives is expected to also approve this ballot measure.

“We both support placing on the ballot this November the decision whether to remove the word ‘and Providence Plantations’ from the state’s name,” President of the Rhode Island Senate Dominick Ruggiero and Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattielo wrote in a joint statement Monday (June 22). “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.”

However, the name change could still be denied by voters in November. Back in 2010, a similar effort to remove the phrase was blocked at the ballots.

“We know that 10 years ago when this was put to the voters, it failed pretty bad,” Providence Jorge Elorza said in a press conference. “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.”

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