Rhode Island considers name change due to slavery connotations

What’s in a name? For the state of Rhode Island, years of acrimony over an official designation with connotations of slavery.

But change is brewing in the union’s smallest state, as Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order on Monday taking the "first steps" to change the state’s full name: "The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations."

The "plantations" part of the name has come under increased scrutiny following widespread protests after the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

The order, Executive Order 20-48, will change the name to just ‘Rhode Island’ in official communications from the governor’s office – including future executive orders, citations and stationery letterheads. It also calls on all state executive agencies to remove the "plantations"  reference from their websites.

The order does not change the state’s official name permanently — that will require voters to amend the Rhode Island Constitution, the order states.

The state Legislature has indicated it will move forward with the referendum after the Rhode Island Senate passed a measure last week calling for a statewide vote on the name change.

The bill was introduced by Rhode Island’s sole black senator, Harold Metts.

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