This State Just Changed Its Name Because of Slavery Associations

Voters approved the removal of "Providence Plantations" from this state's name on Nov. 3.

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The smallest state in America is undergoing a big change. While it's colloquially known as Rhode Island, the New England state's official name was Rhode Island and Providence Plantations… until now. The latter part of Rhode Island's name, which refers to the state's initial European settlement, came under fire because the word "plantation" has long had historical ties to slavery. In June, Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo announced measures to remove it from the state's name, and the change was just made official with 52.9 percent of voters approving the measure on election ballots, The New York Times reported on Nov. 4.

"We can't ignore the image conjured by the word plantation," Raimondo said during a press conference in June. "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."

Raimondo signed an executive order to have the words "Providence Plantations" removed from orders and citations issued by the Office of the Governor, executive branch agency websites, and both paychecks and pay stubs for Rhode Island state employees, calling the continued use of the name "a slap in the face" and "demoralizing" to Black Rhode Islanders.

Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner noted in a statement that the Office of the General Treasurer in Rhode Island will cease to use the phrase on citations, letterhead, and other written documentation from the office, as well.

rhode island governor gina raimondo
Shutterstock/Anthony Ricci

"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," Raimondo said over the summer. "You can be proud of Rhode Island, but don't be proud of that. Don't be proud of a word that represents the worst of what our nation has to offer."

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Senator Harold M. Metts released a statement in June, saying that "making this change would pay some respect to our ancestors who were forced into slavery, and would stop serving as a constant reminder to present-day Rhode Islanders of our painful past."

While changing the state's name may seem like a simple way to cut ties with one of America's more notorious atrocities, a similar measure has received ample of pushback in the past. According to a report from the Providence Journal, nearly 78 percent of voters in 2010 rejected an amendment that would have removed "Providence Plantations" from the state's name. And if you're eager to make your own lexicon more inclusive, start by ditching these 7 Common Phrases That You Didn't Know Have Racist Origins.

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