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Rhode Island moves to change official name over slavery ties

Rhode Island moves to change official name over slavery ties
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The governor Gina Raimondo said: ‘The pain that this association causes to some of our residents should be of concern to all Rhode Islanders.’ Photograph: David Goldman/AP

 in Washington
Published onWed 24 Jun 2020 16.42 BST

Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo has signed an executive order announcing the state would move forward with changing its official name due to its ties to American slavery.

The state’s official name, “The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations,” appears on state documents. But the order would shorten it to just “Rhode Island”.

“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,” the governor wrote.

Raimondo, a Democrat, added that the new name would take effect “as soon as practicable” and apply to all state government communications, including agency websites and correspondence.

The executive order is matched with other state efforts to remove “plantations” from the name. The Hill reported on Monday that the state’s legislature said it will push forward a bill to change the name entirely.

The state’s senate will also introduce a referendum for residents to vote on the change in the November general election. According to the Providence Journal, a 2010 referendum was opposed by more than 75% of voters at the time.

Harold Metts, Rhode Island’s only Black state senator, introduced the 2020 bill. He said: “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.”

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