Rhode Island officials announced in late June 2020 that the phrase “Providence Plantation” would be removed from official state documents amid a national discussion over structural racism in America.
The official name of Rhode Island is “State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation,” but on June 22, Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order that would leave the second half of the name out of official state correspondence and henceforth only refer to it in an official capacity as the “State of Rhode Island.”
The announcement came amid a national discussion about institutional racism, sparked by nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after being pinned under the knee of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Video of the incident went viral, sparking widespread outrage and demonstrations.
In a statement, Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner noted that although the word “Plantation” in Rhode Island’s name “was not necessarily connected with slavery,” its connotation evokes an ugly, racist history.
Magaziner stated, “Words and symbols can take on new meanings over time. As a Rhode Islander with Jewish heritage, I know all too well that the swastika, originally a symbol of spirituality and peace, became a symbol of profound hatred and evil.”
This was not the first time the state name has come under scrutiny.