Rhode Island Moving Toward Shortening Its Official Name Over Connotations of Slavery, History of Plantations

It turns out that the smallest state in the country has the longest name, and Rhode Island is making moves to change that due to its racist connotations. Officially named The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order on Monday to remove "Plantations" from the name, with a vote set to be taken up in November to make the name "State of Rhode Island" permanent.

Citing a years-long public discussion regarding the Rhode Island's official name, Raimondo wrote in the executive order that "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." She said that "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 part of the order, Raimondo announced that "effective immediately," her office will remove the word "Plantations" from the name in executive orders and citations on its website as well as the websites of all executive offices under the governor's control. The Office of the Governor will also begin using stationery that reads "State of Rhode Island" as soon as possible. "Plantations" will also be removed from the stationary, electronic letterhead, and all other official correspondence from other offices.

For the name change to become permanent, voters will need to choose to amend the Rhode Island Constitution in November, something that Raimondo urged voters to approve. According to CBS News, the state previously attempted to change its name in 2010, though the motion ultimately failed when 78 percent of voters opposed the removal of "Providence Plantations."

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Renewed interest in a name change, which comes amid global protests against systemic racism, was prompted after the Rhode Island Senate unanimously called for a statewide vote on the name change last week. Harold Metts, the state’s only Black senator, had introduced a bill, who wrote in a statement that “whatever the history of the term is in Rhode Island, it is an unnecessary and painful reminder of our nation's racist past.”

A Change.org petition was also created to garner support for the name change. According to the petition, Rhode Island acquired its full name in 1664 following "the colonial merger of Providence, Portsmouth, Newport, and Warwick," the page noting that "Newport was a slave-trading hub, where wealthy families… acquired and sold slaves to the south." With more than 7,500 signatures, the petition added that "we can no longer keep the spirit of slavery and racial oppression alive in our official state name."