Gov. Gina Raimondo on Monday signed executive order to remove the phrase "Providence Plantations" from various official state documents as well as executive agency websites.
The move, which was formally announced at an afternoon press conference, came after several weeks of meetings with community and youth leaders and was an effort to address racial inequities in the state following a national push for progress after George Floyd’s killing last month, the Democratic governor said.
“Our work to dismantle systemic racism in Rhode Island did not start today and it will not end today, but we can rise together and make meaningful progress toward racial equity now,” Raimondo said in a statement. “Rhode Island was founded on the principles of acceptance and tolerance, and our state’s name — and actions — should reflect those values.”
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NAACP Providence President Jim Vincent was among many officials who joined the governor Monday for the official announcement.
"The State of Rhode Island and 'Providence Plantations' has been the state's recorded name since conception, but the change is just one step toward unity and progress and away from controversial history," Vincent said. "I think a word like plantations is a trigger that I think it's good to eliminate it because it brings people together."
Rhode Island was incorporated as The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations when it declared statehood in 1790.
There have been efforts to drop the “Providence Plantations” before by those who say it evokes the legacy of slavery.
Those calls have intensified recently as protesters across the country have called for racial justice since Floyd’s May 25 death at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Raimondo’s order will remove the phrase "Providence Plantations" from gubernatorial orders and citations, executive agency websites, official correspondence, and state employee pay stubs.
Removing the phrase from the state’s official name would have to be approved by the Legislature before being put before voters as a constitutional amendment.
In addition to the executive order, Raimondo has directed the state Department of Administration to institute mandatory implicit bias training for all executive branch employees and develop for more comprehensive equity training.
She also directed the Rhode Island State Police to form an outreach team to work with community leaders to find ways for police to better serve residents, and to develop a plan to equip all state police troopers with body-worn cameras.
The Department of Administration is also looking at state contracting practices to ensure that minority-owned businesses have an equal shot at landing state contracts, Raimondo’s statement said.