Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) announced that the state will move forward with changing its official name due to its ties to slavery. 

Currently, the full name of the state is, “The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations,” but it is almost always shorted to just “Rhode Island” except when used on official state documents or correspondence. 

Raimondo signed an executive order that would make the official state name just read, Rhode Island. She said in a statement, “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,” and explained that the new name would be instituted “as soon as practicable.”

Raimondo also posted on Twitter, “Rhode Island was founded on the principles of acceptance and tolerance, and our state’s name – and actions – should reflect those values.” She then added, “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.”

There have been efforts to remove the word “plantations” from the official name in the past. In 2010  a referendum was set out for residents to vote on. However, according to the Providence Journal, more than 75% of voters were against the idea.

The 2020 bill was introduced by Harold Metts, who is Rhode Island’s only black senator. “Whatever the meaning of the term ‘plantations’ in the context of Rhode Island’s history, it carries a horrific connotation when considering the [country’s] tragic and racist history,” he said.

The word “plantation” conjures up images cash crops such as tobacco and cotton that used slavery in order to be funded. 

Rhode Island was the first colony to abolish slavery in 1652, but the law was never enforced and lead to a 6% increase in the population of enslaved African Americans.

Protests and a call for social and political change have been occurring across the country in the wake of George Floyd’s death, a black man who was killed in police custody by an officer kneeling on his neck.

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