Rhode Island moves toward changing its official name over slavery connotations

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By Justine Coleman, The Hill

Rhode Island is moving toward changing its official name — “The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” — due to its slavery connotations.

Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) signed an executive order on Monday declaring that her office would not use the word “Plantations” in future executive orders, citations or on its website.

And last week, the Rhode Island Legislature signaled it will move forward with state Senate legislation to get a referendum on the name change on the November ballot. The state’s only Black state senator, Harold Metts, introduced the bill.

“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 said in a statement last week, according to the Providence Journal.

The governor’s office also plans to label stationary with only the text “State of Rhode Island” “as soon as practicable.” All executive agencies will also remove the word “plantations” from their websites, stationary, electronic letterhead and all official correspondence.

Raimondo’s order said 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.”

“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,” she said in the order.

The push for a name change comes amid nationwide calls for racial justice after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

Rhode Island’s roots trace back to Providence Plantations, a settlement established by Roger Williams in 1636.

A Change.org petition from two weeks ago requesting a name change for the state now has more than 7,250 signatures.

But previous efforts to modify Rhode Island’s name have been unsuccessful, with nearly 78 percent of voters opposing removing “Providence Plantations” from the name in 2010.

This article originally appeared on The Hill.

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