STATE HOUSE – Sen. Harold M. Metts and Rep. Anastasia P. Williams announced today that the General Assembly would be removing “and Providence Plantations” from official General Assembly documents. The announcement was made as part of an event hosted by Governor Raimondo announcing ‘RIse Together’ actions for a more equitable and resilient Rhode Island, including the removal of references to “Plantations” from executive branch documents.
The legislators each have sponsored in their respective changes legislation (2020-S 2902aa, 2020-H 8077) to ask the voters in November whether to change the state’s official name to simply “The State of Rhode Island.” The House leadership has announced that they plan to consider the name change resolution, and the Senate has passed it.
Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), who traces his lineage on his mother’s side to the Speck Plantation near Charlottesville, VA, said, “The word ‘plantations’ conjures extremely painful images for many Rhode Islanders. Whatever the history of the term is in Rhode Island, it is an unnecessary and painful reminder of our nation’s racist past. ‘Plantations’ brings to mind the inhuman and degrading treatment of the African-Americans, slave sales that tore families apart, rapes and lynchings. It is a hurtful term to so many of us.”
Representative Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) said, “The removal of this word with hateful connotations for Rhode Island’s community of color from our official state name will go a long way toward the healing process that is necessary to overcome 400 years of racial inequality, oppression and injustice. I applaud the governor and the General Assembly for taking actions today as steps in this important process to strike a word that is associated with dehumanization and enslavement.”
At the Assembly, the “Plantations” language can be found on Senate and House citations, some letterhead, and even in resolutions passed by the chambers.
In a joint statement, President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio and Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello said: “We both support placing on the ballot this November the decision whether to remove the word ‘and Providence Plantations’ from the state’s name. In the meantime, we know this is an important issue to a lot of people, so the General Assembly will be removing the reference to ‘Plantations’ from Assembly documents.”