Voters in Rhode Island will get another chance to change the state's formal name, which includes the phrase “Providence Plantations."
On Thursday, lawmakers passed a joint resolution to put the name-change question on the November ballot. In 1790, when Rhode Island ratified the Constitution, it incorporated as "The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations." The name dated back to before the American Revolution.
State Sen. Harold Metts, a sponsor of the bill, traced his family history to a Virginia plantation. He noted that Rhode Island built its colonial economy on being a leader in the slave trade.
Metts said: "The images that come to mind when I hear the word ‘plantations’ are the inhuman and degrading treatment of the African Americans who came before me, families ripped apart by slave sales, rapes, castrations and lynchings. It is a hurtful term to so many of us."
The Associated Press reports a similar effort failed a decade ago. However, the name-change has gotten more traction recently amid national outrage and cries for social justice following George Floyd's death.
State Rep. Anastasia Williams said: "When you have more than 10,000 Rhode Islanders showing up in a pandemic for a march calling for an end to police brutality and to affirm that Black Lives Matter, we can take this ugly, painful word out of the name of our beautiful state."
If a majority of voters approve of the name-change measure on November's ballot, Rhode Island's name would officially change in its constitution. Meanwhile, the governor and general treasurer, as well as the mayor of Providence, have already removed the phrase "and Providence Plantations" on some official documents.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.