‘We Know This Is An Important Issue’: Rhode Island Will Change Its Name On Documents

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Nicholas Elias Contributor
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Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Tuesday that Rhode Island will change its name on official state documents.

The official name of the state is Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. “We can’t ignore the image conjured by the word ‘plantation,'” Raimondo said at a news conference, “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.” (RELATED: ‘If We Can’t Sleep You Won’t Sleep’: Hundreds Protest Outside Gracie Mansion After Firework Complaints Soar)

President of the Rhode Island Senate Dominick Ruggiero and Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattielo said in a joint statement that they supported putting the decision to change the name on a ballot this November. “In the meantime, we know this is an important issue to a lot of people, so the General Assembly will be removing the reference to ‘Plantations’ from Assembly documents.” 

Rhode Island got its name from Roger Williams, who included “Providence Plantations” to include the agriculture industry in the area and did not have anything to do with slavery, according to WBUR. During the 18th century Rhode Island had the highest proportion of slaves in all of the Northern colonies and dominated the slave trade, per Slavery in the North.

Jorge Elorza, the mayor of Providence, said at the conference that the same move to change the name failed at the ballots ten years ago, “We know that 10 years ago when this was put to the voters, it failed pretty bad.” She continued, “That means that statewide, it is an unpopular thing to do, but it is the right thing to do and because of that, I give you all the credit, Governor.”