Rhode Island voters have made history by approving the passage of State Question 1 on the General Election ballot to remove the phrase “and Providence Plantations” from the official name of our state. The passage of this question marks the first time in United States history that a state has changed its name.
A campaign that was launched in early October focused on why changing the name was an important step and why this symbolic change has huge implications. “We’re deeply grateful to Rhode Island voters for recognizing the importance of this historic change,” said Neil Steinberg, President and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation, who provided critical early support. “Words matter, the action of voting matters, and it’s clear Rhode Islanders understand that and are ready to move forward together.”
Governor Gina Raimondo, a leading voice to change the State’s name, remarked, “Yesterday, voters came together to send a message that the State of Rhode Island stands for equality and inclusion. We cannot ignore the ugly role that slavery played in our country’s history, but we can determine our state’s future. This victory marks an important step in our ongoing fight to address the systemic racism that has plagued our state and our nation for centuries.”
The question was placed on the ballot with near unanimous support from the General Assembly, led by veteran State Representative Anastasia Williams. “We thank Rhode Islanders for voting in favor of this initiative. It’s clear they heard us,” said Representative Williams. “They listened to our stories and understood why this was so important. Let this be a gesture that allows us to continue making systemic change to address racism in our communities across the state.”
For too many Rhode Islanders, the inclusion of “Plantations” in our state’s name connotes a racist and pro-slavery past. Changing the name is an important step toward addressing this history in our language and we can now say, once and for all, that the name of our state is:
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Rhode Island. Period.