The state of Rhode Island is seeking to change its official name, "The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations," due to the connection to slavery.
CBS News reports that Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo has signed an executive order to change how the name of the state will appear on government documents. "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," wrote Raimondo. "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."
As expected, the change will simply shorten the official name to "Rhode Island." This will immediately impact communication from the governor's office, and the state's official website. The word "plantations" will also be removed from all state agency websites and any official correspondence as soon as it's possible to do so. In a tweet on Monday, Raimondo wrote, "Our work to dismantle systemic racism in Rhode Island did not start today and it will not end today, but we can rise together and make meaningful progress toward racial equity now."
The bill to change the state name was introduced partly by Rhode Island's only Black senator Harold Metts last month, and the Senate called for a vote on the name change shortly after. "Whatever the history of the term is in Rhode Island, it is an unnecessary and painful reminder of our nation's racist past," said Metts in a statement, adding that his mother's side of the family were once slaves to the Speck Plantation in Virginia. "It is a hurtful term to so many of us."
Before the name can be permanently changed, voters will choose to amend the Rhode Island Constitution in November. The state previously tried to change its official name in 2010, but 78 percent of voters opposed the decision. "A decade has passed since the public was asked this question," added Metts.