The US state of Rhode Island has initiated the process of changing its official name from ‘The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations’ owing to slavery connotations of the word ‘plantation’.
The state’s Governor Gina Raimondo Monday signed an executive order to permanently trim the name to ‘Rhode Island’ on all government documents and official communications sent by the state administration, CBS reported. The word ‘Plantation’ will also be removed from official websites and other forms of correspondence “as soon as practicable”, Raimondo said, The Guardian reported.
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. https://t.co/D0nvtC1g8X pic.twitter.com/6iE1zwMTBL
— Gina Raimondo (@GovRaimondo) June 22, 2020
“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,” Raimondo wrote in the order. “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.”
In the midst of ongoing protests against racism in the United States, many have argued that the word ‘plantation’ evokes memories of the trade of enslaved Africans in the country. These enslaved people were made to grow cash crops like cotton and tobacco, which formed the foundation of the US economy at the time. Rhode Island was the first colony to formally abolish slavery in 1653, but the law was never enforced, the Guardian reported.
Meanwhile, the state’s legislature has announced that it is pushing forward a bill to permanently change the state’s name. A referendum will also be introduced by the state’s senate during the November general election so that residents can vote on whether the name should be changed officially, The Hill reported.
“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,” Raimondo said in the order.
This is not the first time a referendum like this has been initiated in the state. In 2010, more than 75% of voters opposed changing the state’s name, the Guardian reported.
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