Following an executive order by Governor Gina Raimondo, Rhode Island is dropping the later part of its name in an effort to distance itself from its controversial history.
Rhode Island is officially known as the State of Rhode Island the Providence Plantations, and now, on state documents and websites, the “Providence Plantations” part will be axed. The state is removing the reference to show its support to the Black community and the fight against systemic racism, and to acknowledge its own part in the country’s troubled history.
“We have to acknowledge our history, that’s true,” said Raimondo, “but we can acknowledge our history without elevating a phrase that’s so deeply associated with the ugliest time in our state and in our country’s history. 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.”
Although the state’s official name will remain unchanged for now, the issue will be voted on in November. Legislation has been introduced that would put the name change on the ballot.
State Senator Harold M. Metts championed the legislation. “The word ‘plantations’ conjures extremely painful images for many Rhode Islanders,” he said. “Whatever the history of the term is in Rhode Island, it is an unnecessary and painful reminder of our nation’s racist past.”